San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker NaVorro Bowman ended the 2013 season in the worst way imaginable. Not only did he suffer a gruesome knee injury after stripping and recovering the ball from a Seattle Seahawks’ receiver on the goal line, but the referees botched the call and gave the ball back to Seattle and his team lost the game. Talk about a bad day. Well at least he can get back on the horse and get revenge early next season, right? Well, hold on one moment.
After winning this game, the Seahawks went on to win the Super Bowl. Every year, the Super Bowl winner opens up the next season with against a rival or any team that would make for a marquee matchup. Although not confirmed, it is believed by many that the Seahawks will open up the season against the 49ers. Will the 49ers have Bowman back for that game? Even if the 49ers don’t play the Seahawks for the first game of the season, the 49ers have to ask themselves if Bowman will be ready for the start of the 2014 season, and plan accordingly.
Initial reports have said that Bowman will be ready for the 2014 season. It is entirely possible that he does. Even Michael Crabtree came back from an Achilles tear in just about six months. The 49ers are hoping for the same type of recovery from Bowman.
With modern medicine a lot more things are possible than in the past. There have been a number of high profile players who have had knee injuries similar to Bowman and had quick recoveries. Players like Jamaal Charles, Thomas Davis and, most notably, Adrian Peterson. But those players are not the norm. For every player that comes back just as strong or stronger, there are probably many who turn out like Danario Alexander.
The question is, how fast of a recovery will he have? A lot of people have and will compare Bowman to Peterson. Both of them had very similar experiences, injuring both the ACL and MCL towards the end of the season. There is one important difference between the two players. Bowman suffered his injury almost a full month later than Peterson did.
Peterson’s return was doubted by many, and for good reason. For Bowman to come back in a shorter amount of time would be absolutely incredible. Incredible, but unlikely. The 49ers shouldn’t rush Bowman back onto the field. The last thing they want or need is for Bowman to re-injure his knee and be out for even longer, or worse, forever.
Even if we use Peterson’s amazing comeback as a timetable for Bowman, Bowman would still miss the first month of the season. And that’s okay. Even with Bowman out, the 49ers are not hurting at the inside linebacker position. They still have Patrick Willis, who until recently was regarded as the best at his position. Even when the 49ers have had injuries and inside linebacker, they were able to fill those spots quite efficiently. Players like Larry Grant and Michael Wilhoite filled in very well when they were needed.
Bowman being ready at the start of the 2014 season is unlikely, but not impossible. The 49ers aren’t in a situation where they have to rush his return. They should just take it slow and do it right the first time. And just in case he’s not ready, they should be prepared to have to make adjustments in their line up. But even if he isn’t ready at the start of the season,, the 49ers nor their fans should panic. Whoever would fill in for Bowman will probably do just fine because of the supporting cast around him.