SANTA CLARA – NaVorro Bowman spoke in the media tent Monday afternoon. Here’s what he said.
Q: How much has Michael Wilhoite improved this offseason?
BOWMAN: He’s definitely a lot more focused. He understands that he has a chance to be the next guy up. I think that’s what he’s been waiting for. He’s definitely earned it with giving us everything he has on special teams. Now that he’s playing a lot within the four-down part of the game, he’s keyed in and trying to pick up the little things that me and Pat are honed in on. But he’s doing a great job and we still have a lot of football left to play and a lot of preseason games for him to get better. He’s doing a great job.
Q: You and Willis usually are the generals of the defense. With him out right now, what’s it like being a lone general?
BOWMAN: It’s OK. I look at myself as a leader. Any time Pat’s not in there or Cowboy’s not in there, I look at myself as the guy to get everybody on the same page and ready to go. You have to have a guy like that on your defense or the defense won’t be on the same page. We have a lot of guys like that on our defense. I think that’s what has made us successful in the past.
Q: You haven’t been able to hit Alex Smith in the past. What will that be like this Friday?
BOWMAN: There’s a first time for everything. You’re right. We never got a chance to hit him. This time we can, so we’re looking forward to it. I know Alex knows we’re coming. It’s just football. He’s on another team. We’ve got to go out there and play our game.
Q: Have you been most impressed with Wilhoite’s athleticism?
BOWMAN: He’s not too far from me and Pat. He has the ability to do the things we can do. He just has to get comfortable doing it and get the snaps and the reps. I think the coaches know that. That’s why he’s been sticking around here for so long. He just has to take every day as a chance to get better. I’m sure he’ll do that.
Q: In the meeting room, do you and Pat take it upon yourselves to make sure all of the rookies are understanding a point?
BOWMAN: All the time. In a player’s mind, sometimes hearing it from a coach is repetitive. It may not stick. But when you hear it from a player who’s out there in the fire, you kind of listen to it a little bit more. That’s the ability me and Pat have in our room. We’re able to coach with our coach and he doesn’t mind it.
Q: What’s the arrangement in the meeting room? How do you guys sit?
BOWMAN: Pat’s always sitting in the back by the coach and I’m always in the front leaning up against the board. The rookies are spread around. It’s a tight-knit group. No egos by the coach or any player. I think that’s the best thing about our room.
Q: With the new contact rules, are you going to have to make some adjustments on how you approach games?
BOWMAN: The new rule outside the box is kind of head boggling because on the defensive side you want to protect yourself at the same time. I’m not understanding the rule where the running back can’t lower his head outside the box. That tends to happen when you’re trying to get a first down or something like that. It’s going to be a rule that’s going to have to be played with, but if you want to play in this league you’ve got to abide by the rules. The referees have a tough job. Us as players, we just have to go out there and figure out a way to fit our game into the new way of playing in the NFL.
Q: Is football a better game this way or not?
BOWMAN: There’s no CBA when you’re growing up learning about football. You learn how to hit and at a young age, coaches try to figure out if you have that dog in you, if you have that anger in you. I don’t think from that level to this level they’re on the same page. When you’re young, you’re just trying to find yourself and that tends to carry itself over into this league, and that’s the football we’ve been used to playing. It’s hard-nosed football, hitting, wrapping, getting a man down any way we can. I don’t know why the NFL doesn’t want us to play like that anymore. Safety is the answer, but football is a contact sport.
Q: You mentioned that dog, that anger. Can you see any of that in Lawrence Okoye?
BOWMAN: I can’t even think about the first day I played football, so I can only imagine what he’s going through. So many things are moving fast out there, it’s kind of slowing him down. But a big guy like that, I know he has it in him. You can’t be that big without. He just has to find out the right time to use it.
Q: How did it affect the defense not having Parys Haralson last year, and what does it mean to get him back?
BOWMAN: It allowed Aldon to play the run a lot more. It allowed us to get better at that position with Aldon playing the whole season. Now that we have Parys, we’re a lot stronger at the outside linebacker position I believe.
Q: How are things going with Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey?
BOWMAN: Impressive. They’re doing a great job. Those guys coming into this defense and learning how we play, it’s tough on them, but Ian’s been here for a while. He’s learned and had a chance to watch past film, past nose guards. He’s definitely taken off and is excelling at that position and Glenn is doing the same thing. Me and Pat are excited about it because we believe both of them can play.