San Francisco 49ers

49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman says comeback has been inconsistent

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who sat out the 2014 season, isn’t back to his former speed, largely because he is a wearing a brace on his still-recovering left knee.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who sat out the 2014 season, isn’t back to his former speed, largely because he is a wearing a brace on his still-recovering left knee. The Bee

NaVorro Bowman will not be sending a thank-you note to the bulky, plastic brace he wears on his left knee during practice, and he won’t be taking it out to lunch.

“They are not friends,” Jim Tomsula said of the 49ers linebacker and his brace.

“I just might light it on fire,” Bowman said.

The rocky relationship underscores where Bowman is in his recovery from a multi-ligament knee injury in January 2014. He’s hungry to recapture the form that made him an All-Pro selection before the injury, but the team’s doctors – and the knee brace – are holding him back.

“There’s a few guys that we just take off the field to give them a blow, to limit them,” Tomsula said Friday after an organized team activity practice. “Bow’s definitely one of those guys. And quite frankly, that’s a good problem to have.”

Bowman said he has participated in as much of the 49ers’ offseason program as he can, and he plans to continue to rehabilitate when the rest of the team gets a monthlong break beginning at the end of June.

He practiced for three consecutive days this week and on Friday came down with his first interception of the offseason – a leaping, end-zone snag of a pass that quarterback Colin Kaepernick intended for tight end Vance McDonald.

But he admitted he doesn’t have highlights like that every day and that his comeback has been inconsistent.

“I go out there some days, and I feel great, and some days I have to fight through it,” Bowman said. “That’s part of the process. I understand that. But mentally, it messes with me sometimes.”

Bowman doesn’t look as fast as before the injury. Part of that is mental, he said. He’s still working through the obstacle of simply reacting to a play on the field and not thinking about the movement. Part of it is the brace.

“I don’t want to (wear it),” he said. “But I’m doing exactly what the doctors ask me to do. Later on down the road, I’ll get rid of it. I don’t like it. It’s not letting me run as fast as I want to, but it’s keeping my knee safe, and that’s what’s most important.”

Dinner is served – Bowman will be one of several high-profile waiters Wednesday at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose.

The event, which begins at 6:30 p.m., includes an auction and dinner and benefits Bowman’s 4th and Goal Foundation, which builds playgrounds for low-income and at-risk children in Northern California.

“There’s not a lot of handicapped accessible playgrounds out here,” he said, “and I think that’s something we need to get out there.”

Bowman said he and several teammates – he mentioned Kaepernick and fellow inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite – will serve as waiters during the event. For more information, visit

Et cetera – The highlight of the practice was made by wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who caught a 60-yard bomb from Kaepernick. Tight end Garrett Celek also made a one-handed catch on what turned out to be a 45-yard play. Celek celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday.

▪ Guard Alex Boone and tackle Anthony Davis – the right side of the 49ers’ offensive line – are training on their own and have not participated in any of the 49ers’ voluntary practices. Draft pick Trent Brown lined up at tackle with the first-team unit Friday while free-agent acquisition Erik Pears played guard.

▪ McDonald said he has been at full speed since undergoing back surgery six months ago. He was one of 15 49ers who ended the season on injured reserve.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at