By Jerrell Richardson
Anyone who saw the injury suffered by NaVorro Bowman in last year’s NFC Championship Game questioned if he would be able to return to the playing field this season. However, pretty much every report since then was that he would return sometime towards the tail end of the 2014 regular season; until now. The 49ers have until December 9th, to decide what to do with his roster spot and the fact that it’s still a question tells you everything you need to know. Not only is Bowman not even close to playing, the risk versus reward to play him doesn’t even make the decision a difficult one. While the team could use his talents, and the inevitable spark his return would bring, the bottom line is that there is no reason to see Bowman dressed and playing this season.READ MORE: Hollywood Movie, TV Workers Reach Deal With Producers to Avert Strike
Is He Healthy?
Weeks ago, the news around Bowman was that he was back to running full speed, but he has not seemed to progress much further since. While Coach Jim Harbaugh has denied that Bowman has suffered any setbacks, he also confirmed this week that the Pro Bowl Linebacker will need at least another week of rehab to start practicing. Even when he returns to practice, there are still several contact tests that he will need to pass before he would be ready to play. So with him not even being a limited participant in practice with just 4 weeks to go in the regular season, after getting himself into game shape he would be available for what, 2 games at the most?
To risk his future, to play in one or two regular season games does not seem like a wise move for either the player or team. Bowman has a bright future ahead of him and is signed to the team through 2018 so both sides should be looking at this from the same angle. The only thought tempting either side is the idea of having him for a possible playoff push, but not only does this still involve the risk of furthering injuring him, but is just smart for two decisions.
49ers Could Very Well Be Watching the Playoffs Or Bowman Doesn’t Recover
There is no guarantee that the team even makes the playoffs. In fact they have to quickly turn things around if they hope to even remain in contention over the next few weeks. The thought is that the team can hold a roster spot and once Bowman is able to return, insert him during the postseason. This sounds good, but if the 49ers are lucky enough to make the playoffs, they will need every available body, and to hold a spot in the hope that Bowman will be ready seems risky. Especially as just like the team getting into the playoffs, there is no guarantee that Bowman will recover, and the team could find themselves in the midst of a playoff push without a full complement of available bodies.
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Even if Bowman is healthy, as absurd as it seems, maybe he is not the team’s best option at the line backing position. While nobody who has watched the 49ers play this season, think that either Chris Borland or Michael Wilhoite are on the level of Bowman, the replacement linebackers have been impressive, and as of right now, both would be the better option than #53.
This is only due to the fact that Bowman’s health is clearly a question, and Borland and Wilhoite are the ones more familiar with the defensive schemes and their teammates. The 49ers have a few new pieces on defense and there is a reason they practice together. If Bowman were to step in the mix now there would be an adjustment period for him and the rest of the defense that could negatively affect them. There have been plenty of miscues by Bowman’s replacements, but the defense as a unit has played well. Add to that the fact that Bowman has not played football in close to a calendar year and his level of play is also a question mark. Especially when considering the change in intensity once the playoffs start. To ask Bowman to go from no regular season to competing in the playoffs would be tough, even for him.
Pretty Easy Call
With the team’s season already in flux it makes this decision that much easier. However, even if the 49ers were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, him returning so late in the season, when his replacements have done a more than admirable job getting the team here isn’t the best decision for a team trying to win games. It’s clear that the best option is to give Bowman the entire year off and the offseason to fully recover so that he is the best player he can be for San Francisco moving forward, whether or not the team makes the playoffs this year.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.