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NaVorro Bowman cleared to return to practice following MRI

49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman is expected to return to practice this coming week. That will open his 21-day practice, during which time the 49ers can figure out if he is ready to start playing this season.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

NaVorro Bowman has been cleared to return to practice, following an MRI earlier this week on his surgically-repaired knee, according to ESPN's Ed Werder. This comes a few days after Werder had reported Bowman told Werder he was still having some pain in his knee. The MRI apparently showed no structural damage, which is enough to activate his 21-day practice window between now and Wednesday.

This is not exactly a shocking development, as it always seemed likely the 49ers would at least activate the practice window at some point. In activating the window, the 49ers do not actually have to have him taking part in full practice sessions. The window is simply a marker on the PUP timeline. If at the end of the 21-day window he is still feeling some of this pain in his knee, then they might elect to place him on season-ending injured reserve.

In the meantime, the 49ers will roll out Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite at the starting inside linebacker positions. Nick Moody will serve as the primary backup. I suspect Chase Thomas could potentially be an emergency fill-in, but otherwise they do not have many options. I suspect we will see a lot of nickel against the Giants wide receiver heavy packages, but if need be, the 49ers could also go to their dime and just have one inside linebacker out there.

If Bowman ends up unable to play in the next month, Shayne Skov is on the practice squad, but I also would expect them to look into any free agents. You can check out some of those names HERE and HERE.