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49ers LB NaVorro Bowman is Reaping the Benefits of His Perseverance

It's nearing the point where NaVorro Bowman's knee injury is an afterthought.

Gone are the days of rehab. No longer does the San Francisco 49ers linebacker have to stretch for two to three hours before each practice. Bowman told reporters during minicamp that when he's out on the field, the injury never crosses his mind.

"It's totally different. I feel great," Bowman said. "Adding on days on top of days, I feel it sometimes, but it's nowhere near what I went through last year with the constant attention I had to put on it. This year I'm able to wake up and ride.

"The road has continued to get better for me, just like I knew it would. I just had to stay on top of it and be disciplined. I had to work through the things that the doctors told me would come up."

That isn't to discredit what Bowman accomplished last season. After missing all of 2014, the linebacker returned in 2015 and led the NFL with 154 tackles. Bowman's 116 solo tackles, the category he said 'defines a middle linebacker,' were also tops in the league. The statistics earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections for the third and fourth time, respectively.

Even Bowman admitted that his production was remarkable given the circumstances.

"I think it was," he smiled before pausing. "I work very hard, and I know the game. For me to get those accolades, and to know there's so much more that I can do, and some plays that I did leave out there on the field, that's what I'm chasing. I'm chasing to have a better year than I did last year."

Bowman's improved fitness level is being put to good use in Jim O'Neil's defense. The team's defensive coordinator is counting on his star linebacker to help get the unit up to speed.

That is meant quite literally as Chip Kelly's offense provides a daily challenge with its up-tempo nature. Bowman said the defense is embracing the extra conditioning, knowing full well that it will pay dividends in the fall.

"I've never met a defensive guy who didn't want to be on the field," Bowman said. "That's more plays and more tackles. It's going to work out. I think if the offense is doing their job and we're able to play with a lead, it will be better for us."

Now that the offseason program is complete, 49ers players have a month and a half-long break before picking up where they left off in training camp. 

"I think we're in a good spot," Bowman said. "I think everyone knows and understands what coach is trying to get accomplished. Now that this break is coming up, we have to keep it in our heads, keep thinking about it and not forget the things that we've learned so far."

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