DENVER – Coach Jim Tomsula planned for 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman to be on the field for 10 snaps. Then, he said, they would assess how much longer, if any, Bowman would remain on the field.
Thirty-one defensive plays later, Bowman’s night was over. The three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker played every snap in the first half of the 49ers’ 19-12 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday night.
“I wanted to read him out there and he was just having a blast, so we kept him out there,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “I had him playing around 10 snaps, but he had a great look in his eyes. It was good for him.”
Bowman played three snaps – and made three tackles – in the 49ers’ exhibition game last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. He will not play on Thursday against the San Diego Chargers when the 49ers play their final practice game. The 49ers open the regular season on Monday, Sept. 14, against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi's Stadium.
Why did Bowman wish to remain on the field longer against the Broncos?
“Because I’m going to have to (play more than 10 snaps) in about two weeks,” he said. “So I just wanted to see if the knee could stay loose, stay ready coming out after three-and-outs and different series, and things like that. And it responded well.”
Bowman recorded a game-high nine tackles and two sacks as part of a 49ers’ defensive effort that held Peyton Manning’s offense to just two field goals in the first half.
And, notably, Bowman did it without a brace on his surgically repaired left knee.
“I took that chance and I felt great,” said Bowman, who sustained major knee damage in January 2014 and missed all of last season. “I’ve been practicing without it. I just want to keep crossing those hurdles and keep taking the next step. It responded well for me.”
Bowman said he heard a lot from Broncos players, including Manning, about how well he looks.
“Yeah, they’re letting know that I’m playing well and I’m a heck of a player,” Bowman said. “Nobody knows what I feel and how I feel, and I hold myself at a very high level. All those things are great. But until I please NaVorro, I’ll keep working.”
And what will please him?
“I know me,” he said. “There are some plays that I could’ve made that you guys probably wouldn’t think I could make. That’s what I mean, just selling out all the way and not thinking about it. I’ll do that when the time comes.”