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The 49ers on Tuesday will open the three-week practice windows for linebacker NaVorro Bowman, tight end Garrett Celek, offensive lineman Brandon Thomas and cornerback Keith Reaser, coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed on Monday.
The “return to practice” label will mean different things to different players.
Thomas (Clemson) and Reaser (Florida Atlantic) are on the non-football injury list. Thomas sustained a torn right ACL during a pre-draft workout with the New Orleans Saints. Reaser (Florida Atlantic) tore his left ACL in a game in October. He underwent surgery in February after complications with the initial surgery.
Neither player will practice or have any chance of playing this season. But with the “return to practice” designation, both will be allowed to take part in team stretching, walk-through activities and limited individual drills.
Celek and Bowman are on physically unable to perform (PUP). Celek has not been able to practice since experiencing back problems upon reporting to training camp.
“Garrett, I think, he’ll be able to practice,” Harbaugh said. “He’s much further along and ready to go.”
Most eyes will be on Bowman, whose rehabilitation from a severe knee injury sustained in the NFC Championship includes cutting and changing directions. It is not known when Bowman will be able to return to full practice activity.
“With NaVorro, we’ll see where he falls and how much he can do, but it’ll be somewhere in that spectrum,” Harbaugh said.
How Bowman's body responds when he starts to go through more strenuous workouts will determine how the 49ers proceed with his attempted comeback. Bowman is signed through 2019, and the 49ers are not likely to take any chances by rushing his rehab.
Tuesday is the final day players on NFI or PUP are allowed to “return to practice” and still be eligible to play this season. A 21-day window is opened, during which time a player can be activated to the 53-man roster at any point.
At the end of 21 days, the team must activate the player, release him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
Rooke seventh-round draft picks fullback Trey Millard (knee) and defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey (Achilles) saw their 21-day windows open last week.