Chris Culliver on Monday vowed to help teammate NaVorro Bowman come back from the gruesome knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.
“I’m going to be there every step of the way,” said the 49ers cornerback, who suffered a torn ACL of his own at the start of training camp. “And help him out in anything he needs, any concern he has. ... I’m going to be there. Because I’m going through it right now.”
Tests on Monday showed that Bowman suffered tears to both the ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee when wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was driven into his leg in the fourth quarter. Bowman will wait until the MCL heals before having surgery on the ACL.
The recovery process is long and could spill into the start of the 2014 regular season. If so, Bowman likely will begin the year on the physically unable to perform list, as Michael Crabtree did this season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in May.
Culliver, meanwhile, said he has resumed sprinting and that he expects to participate in the team’s offseason program.
With question marks surrounding the futures of other 49ers cornerbacks such as Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright, Culliver appears to have a good shot at securing a major role at cornerback in the upcoming season, perhaps as the starter opposite Tramaine Brock.
Brown and Wright will become free agents next month, and Brown at least thinks he will test the market. Wright was passed over by Perrish Cox in the cornerback pecking order, and now his future is in doubt. Lastly, the 49ers asked Rogers to take a pay cut last year, a request he is likely to get again this year. Rogers said he will meet with his agent and discuss how to approach the offseason.
Culliver also has something to offer Bowman.
He said he spoke briefly to Bowman, who was named to both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams this year, and texted him to let him know that he will help the linebacker through his rehabilitation.
It definitely was hard,” he said of watching Bowman go down in the fourth quarter. “I cried. ... You play this game and put all your effort into it. It’s injuries, and it comes with the game. But it’s hard. You just have to find a way to keep your spirits up and keep pushing.”
Iupati’s break – Guard Mike Iupati suffered a fractured left fibula early in the second quarter Sunday but will not need surgery, a league source said.
As far as lower-leg diagnoses go, it was a good one for the big left guard. The fibula is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. It was a clean break, there was no ligament damage, and Iupati should be back to full strength in eight weeks.
Iupati had a rough season as he dealt with shoulder and knee injuries at various points.
In the run-up to Sunday’s game, he said he finally was feeling like himself, and it showed in the 49ers’ divisional-round win against the Panthers. Iupati had perhaps his best game of the season as the 49ers’ offensive line dominated the second half, and he made key blocks on Colin Kaepernick’s touchdown run and Frank Gore’s long run for a first down in that game.
Against the Seahawks, that running room disappeared. Gore had only 14 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers rushed for 161 yards, but 130 came on Colin Kaepernick’s scrambles.
Okoye, Wylie signed – The 49ers signed defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye and wide receiver Devon Wylie to reserve/future deals that will allow them to spend the offseason with the team.
Okoye, a former British discus thrower, is trying to break into American football. He spent the year on injured reserve but is healthy now and will compete with Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie for backup spots for the upcoming season.
Wylie, who played at Granite Bay High School, also can return punts, and he will provide an alternative to LaMichael James in the offseason.