Linebacker NaVorro Bowman will have an MRI today that will determine whether he returns to practice next week. Tuesday is the last day Bowman, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, can begin a 21-day window for practicing with the team.
Earlier this week, ESPN's Ed Werder said Bowman told him before the Saints game that he was experiencing pain in his surgically repaired left knee. Said Jim Harbaugh when asked whether Bowman was dealing with pain in the joint: “I saw that reported, but I don’t know for sure.”
The 49ers can move Bowman to the active roster at any point during the 21-day window. Given that Bowman's injury occurred less than 10 months ago, as well as the fact that the 49ers' backup linebackers are playing well, it's likely that the 49ers use the full allotment of time before sending Bowman onto the field.
Under that scenario, Bowman might play in mid December. The 49ers play the Seahawks in Seattle – where Bowman tore his ACL in January – Dec. 14. They have a home game against the Chargers Dec. 20.
Another option is shutting down Bowman for good. Backups Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland have played well in place of Bowman and Patrick Willis, whose season ended Tuesday when he was placed on injured reserve with a toe issue. Borland apparently injured his shoulder in the game and was practicing in a blue, no-contact jersey Wednesday.
“Those two are doing a great job of elevating their game to the standard that NaVorro and Patrick have set around here,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, they have no choice really but to do that. They’re doing a great job of getting that done.”
Meanwhile, Harbaugh said the team hasn't decided whether to place Ian Williams on injured reserve. The team's nose tackle suffered a leg fracture that does not require surgery. Williams likely would be available for the playoffs if he remains on the active roster.
The 49ers will monitor Glenn Dorsey (bicep) this week to see if he can step in at nose tackle. If not, Quinton Dial, who replaced Williams Sunday in New Orleans, likely would start with Tony Jerod-Eddie in the backup role.
Before Williams left Sunday's game late in the second quarter, Saints running back Mark Ingram had eight carries for 35 yards. With Williams out, Ingram ran the ball another 19 times for 85 yards. Which is to say, the Saints' running game did not appear to be any more effective with a backup playing nose tackle.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.