Bowman says his focus is on improving

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – NaVorro Bowman’s name has been getting some traction in talk about the NFL defensive player of the year award. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been pumping him up for the award, and his incredible 89-yard interception return for a touchdown to secure a win over Atlanta and put the 49ers into the playoffs on a national stage Monday night helped his case as well.

What does Bowman think? Does the inside linebacker think he should be a candidate for the highest award bestowed on a defensive player?

I asked him. He smiled and paused then said: “I think so.”

Bowman said he thinks he should be a candidate because he continues to improve. Drafted in the third round in 2010, Bowman has become one of the most dynamic tacklers in the NFL.

“I think the key to any good player is to keep improving,” he said. “My tackle numbers are up and I just continue to try to help this team.”

There is no clear-cut favorite for the award, so Bowman could have a chance. He knows the big play Monday night didn’t hurt his cause.

It’s been a wild few days since Bowman turned in one of the most memorable plays of this season. He said his phone was dead Monday. When he finally charged it Tuesday, it was full of congratulatory texts and voice mails.

“That’s what happens with a play like that,” Bowman said.