July 27, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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SANTA CLARA -- In his one starting assignment as a rookie, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman replaced Patrick Willis and responded with 15 tackles in the final game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals.This season, Bowman's goal is to start alongside Willis. And that looks like a reasonable possibility after veteran Takeo Spikes agreed to a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday.RELATED: Spikes agrees to terms with Chargers
"He made a good decision for himself," Bowman said. "It's one less competitor. I'm not coming here like I already have the starting job. I'm coming in here to compete, and I'm sure they'll probably bring in somebody else to compete for the job. It's not mine yet, but I'm definitely shooting for it."
Bowman was a third-round pick of the 49ers last year. He was eased into the action on third downs early in the season, but Spikes ultimately became an every-down linebacker. He said he felt a different comfort level in the season finale after stepping on the field at the beginning of the game.And his strong play in the 49ers' 38-7 win over the Cardinals also gave him a lot of confident heading into the offseason."I think it helped, it was the one time I got out there and started the game," Bowman said. "I felt comfortable and got a feel for the other team and what they wanted to do. I got a chance to play my first full NFL game, and it felt great. I'm ready to go out there and compete for the starting job, and hopefully I get it."I came here with the same mindset I came here last year -- just ready to work. Like coach has been saying, this is an opportunity and I want to take advantage of it."Bowman reported Wednesday to the 49ers' practice facility at 240 pounds. It's the same weight at which he played last season, he said. "But it's a better 240 and a smarter 240," he said.