SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Amid a year of such drastic turnover, there hasn't been much coming out of the 49ers' facility acknowledging the radical changes the team is dealing with this season.
There's been one notable exception. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the team's unquestioned leader and former three-time All-Pro, spoke about the team's roster this week in a conference call with Seattle reporters ahead of Thursday night's game against the Seahawks.
When asked how first-year head coach Jim Tomsula is handling things during the 49ers' 2-4 start, Bowman had pointed words about the direction of the roster:
“I see him just being patient and trying to give a little more than just put his stamp on everything. I think him being dealt this hand of players, with the young guys being asked to play such a high-valued play, I think he’s doing a great job. We all love him as a player’s coach, I think he does a great job with balancing how he’s coaching and how he’s treating us off the field also.”
San Francisco is prepping for Thursday's game against its rival with a slew of new faces. Gone are former regulars like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald, who played key roles on the 49ers' defense that led the team to three straight conference title games and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII.
Tomsula "being dealt this hand of players" strays away from the uniform football speak that rarely goes outside the box of the 'next man up' mentality.
When San Francisco was in the midst of replacing Jim Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke said, "We’re not in a rebuild. This isn’t a rebuild situation. This is a reload situation. Got a lot of confidence in this team, the players in that locker room and we’re going to need to make some adjustments."
Whether or not Bowman is making excuses for San Francisco's rough start or is simply trying to be realistic is up for interpretation. The 49ers' defense under new coordinator Eric Mangini ranks 31st after ranking in the top 10 in the last four seasons under Vic Fangio.
"We’ve lost a lot," Bowman said. "Everyone understands that we can’t use that as an excuse, we’ve got to get on the same page. I think we got that shown to us early on in the season, and it’s a challenge for us. I think me and Ahmad Brooks are probably the only two guys from the 2011 defense to now, so it’s a challenge for us but we’re looking forward to the battle.”
Bowman is right. He and Brooks are the only remaining starters on San Francisco's defense from that 2011 season when the 49ers had one of their best defenses in franchise history.
The discussion surrounding Bowman the last two weeks has been about limiting his reps while he continues to come back from his ACL and MCL tears that forced him to miss all of last season. Of course, the injury was suffered in January 2014's conference title game against these same Seahawks.
Tomsula said before Sunday's win over Baltimore he wanted to monitor Bowman's snap counts. But Bowman wound up playing all 77 snaps against the Ravens.
Mangini said Tuesday getting Bowman to come out of a game isn't an easy proposition.
"(Those conversations) go exactly as you'd expect to go from somebody who is just relentless and determined and cares very deeply about the things that he does," Mangini said. "Nobody wants to come off the field ever. I've never had a conversation with a guy like, 'hey, we're going to take some reps off,' and they're psyched."
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com