Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said he likes the message Chip Kelly and his new 49ers coaching staff is sending: play relentlessly at all times.
That’s something the 49ers’ defense, 29th in the NFL in yards allowed last season, didn’t always do. The incoming coaches have pointed that out, and Bowman said he’s glad they did.
“I was the first person to agree with it,” Bowman said. “Because we have to play a certain way to get to (where) we want to get to.”
Bowman is one of the few multiyear veterans on the defense and is the unit’s unquestioned leader. He missed the 2014 season while recovering from a devastating knee injury, but gritted his way through 16 games last year and led the league in tackles.
One of the critiques of Kelly is that his up-tempo offense, by getting off the field quickly, puts too much of a burden on his defense. After he left the Eagles last season, some Philadelphia defenders griped that they played the equivalent of three extra games. Indeed, the Eagles led the NFL in defensive snaps each of the three seasons Kelly coached there.
Bowman, however, declared himself “all in” when it came to Kelly’s approach. And he reinforced that by showing up for the first day of the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program on Monday.
Bowman noted that most teams don’t start their offseason programs for another two weeks and that veteran players often stay away from the sessions.
“But I wanted to get here and let the guys know that I’m in it, I’m not bigger than the team at all,” he said. “I think the guys see that.”
The team’s biggest offseason storyline has been the status of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who asked for a trade but who, along with nearly every other 49er, has been on hand this week in Santa Clara. Kaepernick has not spoken with the media since the end of the 2015 season.
Bowman said the Kaepernick saga is not a distraction, but only because it’s early April.
“Yeah, when the season rolls around, I think it will be (a distraction),” Bowman said. “But right now guys are just focused on what we have to do to get to that point. And I’m sure upstairs (the 49ers’ front office) and Colin are trying to get everything right. But the guys that are out there on the field putting the work in, that’s the guys that we’re going to continue working with and try to make better.”