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NaVorro Bowman Speaks Candidly on 49ers 2014 Season

All eyes, and cameras for that matter, were on NaVorro Bowman for 10 minutes on Tuesday.

Less than an hour after the star inside linebacker had been activated off of the team's Physically Unable to Perform List and added to the San Francisco 49ers 53-man roster, Bowman's presence in the locker room was a welcomed sight for a team coming off its most disheartening loss of the season against the Oakland Raiders.

Bowman, who said he will only play once he's back to 100-percent health, was very honest about his experiences on the sideline in 2014. In fact, the 49ers linebacker was quite candid about the team's 7-6 record without his services.

When asked if San Francisco was still as physical as it was last season, Bowman said, "We're not and I'm going to say that."

The last time the two-time Pro Bowler was on the field, Bowman totaled 15 tackles in the NFC Championship Game last January. Bowman also tore two ligaments (ACL, MCL) in his left knee on his 15th and final tackle of the eventual loss. Bowman, 11 months later, sees a different team-wide mentality without himself or Joe Staley on the field.

"I don't want to say that I'm the reason or Pat's the reason," Bowman said. "When you're used to coming into work and seeing a type of behavior, whether it's practice or the meeting rooms, everyone follows. We lost that a little bit this year. That's obvious. But we have 53 guys and I'm going to keep saying that. When someone goes down, the next guy has to stand up.

"Everyone's been a part of teams like that. We all know how to do that. But you have to be the man to do it. You have to want to do it."

It's not known if Bowman will return to the field for Sunday's Week 15 road matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. It's more than likely Bowman, San Francisco's leading tackler from 2011-13, will have to get a few practices in under his belt before he can play again.

If Bowman is inactive on Sunday, he'll still do his best to carry the message of what it takes to beat a red-hot team like Seattle.

"We've been on an up-and-down slope this year, but I've been behind these guys since day one," said Bowman, who delivered a passionate pregame speech before the 49ers lost, 19-3 to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. "It's hard to go out there and play teams like Seattle when you have young guys who haven't been in those types of games yet."

Bowman categorized the NFC West rivalry game as a different level of physicality than what's normally experienced around the NFL.

"(You have to) understand the level of play that is needed," he said. "This is a division game. This is a game that players have built this game up to this point. It takes a special attitude and mindset to beat those guys. You can't approach it like any other game because they're not any team. They understand what it takes when they're playing good teams or good defenses, and we have to approach it the same way."

So while Bowman is listed behind Michael Wilhoite on this week's depth chart, a place he hasn't been all season, the returning linebacker is going to continue trying to inspire those around him even if he's not guaranteed to play.

"It's been hard, sad at the same time, especially when you want to take your brain and put it in the guys who are out there and allow them to see the things that I see on the sideline," Bowman said. "But it's part of it. That's why we have 53 guys so the next man can step up and help our team out.

"I understand that I wasn't able to contribute to my team this year. It just sucks being on the sideline. That's why I've been working so hard just to get back out there with them."

Bowman said adjusting to sideline life in the NFL has been a challenge this year. Even getting into a routine has been a task.

"Every game has been weird for me," he said. "I haven't even known what time to wake up or to show up to the stadium, how to relax and just watch other people get dressed (for gameday), has just been difficult for me. I haven't talked about it, but it really has been hard, and sometimes I just ask, 'Why?'

"But every day, feeling my knee get better when I wake up in the morning is just a great thing for me."

Bowman's peace of mind is a great thing for the 49ers as well.

Clearly, his words carry a lot of weight.

He might not play this week, but the fact that he's on the 53-man roster could be a much-needed boost for a must-win game.

If and when Bowman returns to practice, that could be a whole different kind of spark.

"Just me putting on a helmet again, those guys seeing me put the work in, just showing them that I really love this game, hopefully it will raise the morale of this team," he said.

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