During the course of the 2015 season, NaVorro Bowman was always a little hesitant to take a step back and reflect on his comeback campaign.
He answered the questions, yes, but typically with the qualifier that he'd wait to finish what he started before truly measuring his accomplishments.
So after the San Francisco 49ers won their finale on Sunday, 19-16, over the St. Louis Rams, the linebacker opened up about the year that was, one that saw him pile up a career-best and league-leading 154 tackles (per NFL.com).
"It meant a lot," Bowman said. "To get out there and move the way I was moving prior to the injury and receive the respect I've received from players throughout the league – it continued to motivate me and drive me."
Enjoy the best photographs of San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman's return to the field.
Bowman's tackle total bested Indianapolis Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson by four and earned him his third career Pro Bowl selection. As he has told reporters in past weeks, Bowman felt as if he could've been even more productive this season.
"I didn't get down on the missed tackles that I made – and I had several," Bowman said. "Guys were still pushing me and saying that I was doing a good job. All of those things continue to drive me to fight throughout the year."
At the onset of the season, it was unclear how much of a workload Bowman's surgically-repaired knee would be able to handle after missing the entire 2014 campaign. But as it turned out, only Eric Reid played more defensive snaps for the 49ers this year than Bowman.
"Any time you come back from a significant injury, it's a testament to who you are and how you're wired – what's in your DNA," general manager Trent Baalke said. "His injury was significant, it wasn't just a normal, typical ACL.
"So for him to come back and play the number of snaps he played week in and week out and to see him get better with each outing, that's a tip of the cap to him. What can you say? This is a man's game, and he's a man."
With 2015 now in the rear-view mirror, Bowman has begun to think about what's next. And according to the 27-year-old, he expects to take an even bigger step forward in 2016.
"I've put the pressure on myself to go into this offseason and get back to the form I was once at," Bowman said. "This body will be put through a tremendous workout every single day."
One thing that is certain is Bowman, who is under contract through 2018, will be playing for a new head coach when he returns for the start of the offseason program this spring. The team captain gave his endorsement that the front office will find the right person to lead the organization into the future.
"I'm always comfortable with the direction," Bowman said. "I trust the 49ers operation, and I'm always going to give it 110 percent every time I step on the field."