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SANTA CLARA – After one season on the sideline, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman continues to re-build confidence in his left knee while learning new responsibilities within the team’s revamped scheme.
“We’re asked to do a lot more than we were,” Bowman said of the transition to new defensive coordinator Eric Mangini after four seasons with Vic Fangio calling the shots.
“It has its ups. The only downs are that we weren’t used to it. But as we continue on throughout the weeks, getting used to talking a little more than we did in the past, we’re all getting on the same page and it’s working out.”
Bowman is spending his time in the offseason program spending equal times working on the mental and physical parts of his game. While he learns Mangini’s teachings of the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme, Bowman believes he his making strides as he returns from the injury that wiped out his entire 2014 season.
“It’s really about lining up right,” he said. “Once I get lined up right, there are little shortcuts I can take to get to where I need to be. It’s about making sure you’re lined up right and you know what’s going on and you get to where you need to be.”
Bowman earned All-Pro honors in three consecutive seasons playing alongside Patrick Willis. With Willis’ retirement, Bowman is now lined up next to Michael Wilhoite, who was one of just three defensive players to start all 16 games for the 49ers last season.
“It’s strange, but when me and Pat first got introduced to Vic and his scheme, everything was new,” Bowman said. “That’s the same way me and Mike are treating this, learning everything as much as possible. We’re working together. The crazy thing is some of the things I don’t know or don’t say, Mike says. So it’s working out.”
Wilhoite appears to be strengthening his grasp on the starting job during the offseason. The 49ers appear satisfied with the pairing of Wilhoite and Bowman in the center of the team’s defense. The 49ers did not select an inside linebacker in the draft nor did they sign a free agent who is expected to seriously challenge Wilhoite for his starting job.
“It’s great. He’s a hard worker,” Bowman said. “And he’s understanding that he’s had to crawl before he can walk. That’s what you want in a guy who hasn’t played as much as me -- just a guy who’s willing to learn and understand the different types of schemes teams are running out there. He’s doing a great job at that. He’s not getting down on himself or anything. We’re working toward it, through it, together.”