SANTA CLARA -- It won't get the publicity of his farewell-to-Candlestick interception for a touchdown on Dec. 23, 2013. But this one had to feel pretty good for linebacker NaVorro Bowman as he continues to come back from the left knee injury that wiped away his 2014 season.
Toward the end of Tuesday's practice, Colin Kaepernick was trying for a short, underneath pass to receiver Jerome Simpson. Instead, Bowman ducked in front of Simpson for the interception and was off to the races.
Bowman was a late arrival to practice because, according to a team spokesman, he had an extra-long warm-up period. Still, he was in his usual spot with the first-string unit when 11-on-11 drills began and he figures to start Saturday against the Texans in Houston. It will be his first game since his injury.
"I want to reserve the right (to hold him out) if he’s a little sore," Jim Tomsula said when asked if Bowman would play. "But, as of today, yes.”
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Here's a story on how much Bowman suddenly means to the organization now that yet another prominent linebacker has left the team.
The 49ers are in game mode this week. The offense switched from red to white jerseys in anticipation of Saturday's game (because the Texans will be in their dark, home uniforms). There was music blaring over the microphone -- Snoop Dogg, Ozzie Ozbourne, AC-DC -- to give the team a sense of what it will be like to play in a noisy stadium. (I thought I caught Tomsula's toe tapping while "Thunderstruck" was playing.) And they continued to work on the mechanics of getting the play call from offensive coordinator to quarterbacks coach to quarterback. More on that here.
Some Alabama fans may be concerned that they haven't heard much lately from rookie wideout DeAndrew White. Fear not. White continues to look like one of the 49ers better rookies, and on Tuesday he delivered the offensive play of the day when he tipped -- one-handed -- a deep pass to himself along the sideline. The ball was thrown by fellow undrafted rookie Dylan Thompson and Leon McFadden was in coverage.
White also was one of the players returning punts during the special teams portion of practice (along with Reggie Bush and Mario Hull) and he promises to see a lot of work at both receiver and returner Saturday in Houston. Interestingly, Jarryd Hayne did not return punts but instead got some snaps on coverage units. His rugby background suggests he'd be good in that area, too, and that may be how he’s used in Saturday’s game.
Tank Carradine scored a trifecta Tuesday in recording sacks on Kaepernick, Thompson and Blaine Gabbert. Carradine is getting an excellent education every day in going against the left -- and stronger -- side of the 49ers offensive line. But he was disruptive in practice Tuesday. He also looked good in one-on-one drills against Alex Boone. Boone staggered Carradine initially with his long reach, but the defensive end recovered, then tossed Boone to the ground as he got around the corner.
As expected, Torrey Smith received a veteran's day off. Fellow wideouts Bruce Ellington, Chuck Jacobs and Dres Anderson also did not practice, the latter two sitting out due to what Tomsula termed "soreness." (Which is another ‘plus’ for White; he, DiAndre Campbell and Mario Hull are the only rookie wideouts who have not had an absence so far in training camp).
At running back, Kendall Gaskins received his biggest workload of camp. That's because Mike Davis did not take many snaps in the second half of practice. Kendall Hunter has not had any carries in team drills and the 49ers continue to monitor Bush's snap count.
Quinton Dial went through individual drills but not team drills. His injury does not appear serious, but Tony Jerod-Eddie took most of the snaps at right defensive end when the 49ers were in base defense.
Good injury news: Center Daniel Kilgore has gone from crutches two weeks ago to a cane last week and on Tuesday was walking around with neither. However, he is still in a walking boot following his surgical procedure in June. ... Safety Jimmie Ward continues to work out of a side field with strength and conditioning coaches.