It's hard to articulate what NaVorro Bowman means to the San Francisco 49ers. To put it mildly, it will be bizarre to see the 49ers take the field on Sunday without No. 53. Sentiments aside, here are the football implications regarding the decision to release Bowman.
Reuben Foster will now play MIKE linebacker full time. The first-round pick had been playing at WILL linebacker since training camp following the injury to Malcolm Smith. Foster started Week 1 at Bowman's side and played 11 snaps before going down with a high-ankle sprain. The injury sidelined Foster for the past four weeks.
As Foster neared full strength, it became a topic of conversation where he would be reinserted back into the lineup. Now that Bowman has been released, we have our answer. Foster will transition back to MIKE linebacker immediately. Kyle Shanahan noted that's Foster's natural position. Ray-Ray Armstrong will remain at WILL linebacker.
In the short term, Brock Coyle is likely to remain a factor at MIKE and split time with Foster. The 49ers might limit Foster's reps as he returns to action. Foster is currently listed as questionable to play on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, but I'd bet he'll be active.
As for Bowman, the eight-year veteran immediately becomes a free agent and is in control of his destiny. John Lynch explained that Bowman preferred to choose his next destination opposed to being traded. The 49ers granted Bowman that courtesy.
"NaVorro gave his heart and soul to this team for the last eight years, and for that we are all extremely grateful," Lynch said in an official statement. "During that time, NaVorro was a key component of one of the best teams in the league and his passion for the game allowed him to quickly become a favorite of our Faithful fans.
"Thursday evening, Kyle and I met with NaVorro, and from our conversation it became evident that going in different directions was best for both him and our team. Although NaVorro may be moving on, he will always be looked at as one of the great players to wear the red and gold. We wish him and his family great success."
Plays like the pass breakup in the 2012 NFC Championship Game and the "Pick at the Stick" in 2013 will keep Bowman forever woven into the fabric of the 49ers franchise. All eyes will be watching to see where the "MON5T3R" lands next.
But for now, the focus in San Francisco shifts squarely onto Foster's shoulders. The future is now, and we have 11 games left in 2017 to see what the Alabama product is capable of.