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NaVorro Bowman 'fighting through those tough days' to return

AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File

How would you describe your rehab over the past year and a half?

NaVorro Bowman: Boring. Lonely. It’s a gut check because you ask yourself, do you really want to do it, sometimes. Or, do you feel like doing it when you don’t, when your knee feels like it can’t do it. But if you talk to doctors and trainers, they tell you that it’s good for you to get out there and get it moving, just to get the kinks out. Those are the things that go through [your mind]. Rehabilitation is just fighting through those tough days when your knee is sore, but the best thing for it is to get out there the next day and keep working it.

Did you think you’d be back sooner?

Bowman: Um, I’m on pace, you know? I’m right where I want to be. I’m happy, man. Blessed.

How strange is it going to be playing without Patrick Willis, and what are you going to miss most about playing next to him?

Bowman: Me sitting out a year and then going through this whole offseason and not having him, it’s just something I’ve had to deal with, I think, as a stepping stool. Just getting older, taking the next step; we always talk about the NFL [as] Not being For Long, and you want to take advantage of your opportunity, and this is an opportunity for me, believe it or not, just to go out there and lead this team. And that’s what I plan on doing.

How does losing Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and even Chris Borland affect schematically what you guys can do this season?

Bowman: You know, it’s a new scheme, new coach. He wasn’t able to put Patrick and Justin in those type of schemes. So it’s a lot of young guys on this team with a lot of talent. They were very experienced players; you can’t replace that. But in this game, man, when guys go down you have to step up. We lost those guys, and it’s an opening for these young guys. I’m not saying these young guys can’t do it, but I think they understand the shoes they have to fill and the type of football the 49ers play, and I’m excited to see it.