49ers LB NaVorro Bowman battling ups and downs of knee rehab

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- NaVorro Bowman has a succinct feeling about the balky brace he is forced to wear about his surgically repaired left knee, the ACL and MCL torn in January 2014 and kept him sidelined all of last season.

“I just might light it on fire,” Bowman said Friday, a slight smile crossing his face.

And why not grin? Bowman was all over the field in the open-to-the-media practice, picking off quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

“It got me back in playmaking mode,” he said.

But Bowman admits the long haul back from injury to, he hopes, his three-time All-Pro form has been just that -- long. And the grind has gotten to him, at times.

“It hasn’t been consistent,” he said. “I go out there some days and I feel great and some days I have to fight through it. That’s part of the process. I understand that. But mentally, it messes with me sometimes.”

Bowman practiced during the first two days of OTAs last week, before taking a day off, but went all three days this week.

“He looks the same to me,” new Niners linebacker Philip Wheeler said. “I’ve watched him his whole career and he doesn’t look like he’s missed a step. He’s doing his thing, holding it down.”

The Niners are easing Bowman back into the fold.

“There are a few guys that we just take off the field to give them a blow, to limit them,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “Bow’s definitely one of those guys and quite frankly, that’s a good problem to have. We’re not in season yet.

“The road he’s traveled here in the past year and a half, it’s just awesome to have him out there and I think he’s really enjoying himself.”

Except, of course, when Bowman has to strap on that brace.

“They,” Tomsula said of the linebacker and his brace, “are not friends.”

The Niners have one more week of OTA’s -- practices next Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday -- as well as a three-day minicamp June 9-11 before breaking until training camp, which begins in late July/early August.

And Bowman plans on continuing his rehab, without a break.

“I’m a professional,” he said. "I have to enjoy my life but at the same time, what we’re facing in these next few months is way more important. The most important thing is getting my knee right and getting ready for my guys.

“I’ll be working.”