DENVER -- Although NaVorro Bowman looked strong throughout the offseason program and the first few weeks of training camp, it was difficult to predict how the linebacker would perform when he made his return to the field last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
But in his only three snaps on the field, Bowman recorded three tackles, including two for a loss.
The next test for Bowman and his surgically-repaired knee comes on Saturday versus the Denver Broncos, when he is expected to play more than one series. How the knee responds to game action followed by a break on the sideline will be an important litmus test as the regular season draws closer.
On Thursday, following the San Francisco 49ers second of two joint practices with the Broncos, Bowman spoke about the process of getting his knee game ready.
"I'm just a perfectionist," Bowman said. "I like to warm up my leg as much as possible and to go out there and have a perfect practice. If it takes three hours, I'll take three hours.
The San Francisco 49ers took to the field for the second day of their joint practice with the Denver Broncos.
"No one knows your body like you do. I warm up the knee, the knee feels great and I go out there and just play."
For Bowman's 49ers teammates, having the three-time All-Pro back orchestrating the defense is a luxury they don't take for granted. The veteran's presence gives the team stability and a figure to rally around.
"NaVorro has been a huge leader for this football team," Joe Staley said. "Great player obviously and great in the locker room.
"And you got a taste in the second preseason game what he's all about."
Bowman, San Francisco's leading tackler for three consecutive seasons from 2011-13, turned in another solid week of practice in Denver. And after facing the linebacker in team drills, Peyton Manning (link) voiced his respect for the long road Bowman has traveled to rehab the injury. Jim Tomsula continues to be in awe of Bowman as well.
"In terms of the way he's worked and the way he's approached everything, there is a difference in him," Tomsula said. "Just in the way he carries himself. And it's really cool… what we're seeing on the field, he's back to NaVorro."