San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis had to admit, it’s a little weird to take the field without longtime teammate NaVorro Bowman.
“There’s no question.”
Bowman was nowhere to be found on the practice fields during OTAs on Tuesday, as the inside linebacker works his way back from a torn ACL that is likely to sideline him throughout the first half of the season.
Willis expects the absence of Bowman to become even more noticeable once training camp gets underway in July.
“There’s times when you’re out there, when you’re going through the drills, not per se now because it’s not as intense, but when training camp gets here. Those days where you’re just need a little bit of motivation. Sometimes you can look to the guy next to you and say, ‘If he’s going through it, if he’s getting through it, if he’s getting better, so can I.’ I’m most definitely going to miss him.”
However, the six-time All-Pro quiclky added: “But I know he’s going to be right there.”
As Willis explained, Bowman is at the team’s Santa Clara facility every day getting his treatment and workouts in and the two still sit next to each other in meetings, comparing notes.
The 49ers could also be without another star linebacker in the near future. For now, though, the potential loss of Aldon Smith is not an issue that Willis or his teammates are concerning themselves with.
“For us, it’s not something we worry about. Right now, he’s out here with us and he’s practicing every day and he’s working out every day and being a great teammate.”
“That’s our focus right now is worrying about the present. When that time comes whatever is to be decided will be and we have to continue to get better as a football team.”
However, with Smith set to be sentenced on July 25 for an array of felony charges, it remains to be seen just how much longer he’ll be out on the field. Should Smith be hit with jail time or more likely just a multi-game suspension, Willis expects the rest of the defense to pick up the slack.
“God forbid, if he’s not out there then as some of the guys did last year, they’ll have to step in his place and play big time.”
Considering Smith has racked up 42 sacks in the past three seasons, that’s big time, indeed.