Harbaugh optimistic about Bowman return

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman has started running and soon hopes to beginning making cuts during his the rehabilitation from a torn ACL in in January, coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.

In February, Harbaugh estimated that Bowman could return at about midseason. That is more than three months away. Harbaugh doesn’t have a more clear estimate now, but he is not pessimistic about Bowman’s return. Bowman suffered the knee injury in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' NFC title game loss at Seattle on Jan. 19.

“You make a prediction and that’s basically based on these guys, these athletes, these super-fit, almost super-human the way they rehabilitate themselves, and they come back from injury, it’s not the normal guy by any means,” Harbaugh said. “NaVorro is a cream of the crop of the athletes, professional athletes on a football team. So, hard to say where it’s going to fall. My prediction would be, I’ve seen other guys … I’m very hopeful. Very optimistic. Knowing NaVorro the way I do, nothing would surprise me if it’s sooner than that. I would not be surprised when you’re talking about NaVorro.”

Harbaugh reiterated that the 49ers will not rush Bowman, one of the NFL’s elite inside linebackers. In the meantime, the 49ers will try to find his beginning-of-the-season replacement. Veteran Michael Wilhoite will try to hold off third-round pick Chris Borland. Wilhoite played well as a short-term injury replacement for Patrick Willis last season, but Borland has looked good in offseason workouts.