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Trent Baalke talks NaVorro Bowman, Jimmie Ward, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Thomas injury recovery

The San Francisco 49ers should have several key players returning in time for the offseason workout program. Trent Baalke discussed some of them.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers expect to have running back Kendall Hunter and offensive guard Brandon Thomas available for the offseason workout program, which kicks off in early April. General manager Trent Baalke spoke with the local media on Wednesday, and he expects both to be ready for the program (transcript).

MAIOCCO: How is Kendall Hunter?

BAALKE: Fine. He has progressed very well. Talk about a guy that works. If anybody can come back from two seasons like this, it's Kendall. He's a grinder.

MAIOCCO: You expect him to take part in the full offseason program?

BAALKE: Oh yeah.

INMAN: Same with Brandon Thomas?

BAALKE: He should be ready to go.

Baalke was asked about NaVorro Bowman as well, although not specifically about the offseason program. Chris Biderman asked Baalke how Bowman is doing and how his rehab is coming along.

Real good. I don't know if you've seen him the last couple times that he has popped in, but you can tell he is working. I think he feels good. He's really starting to feel like it's coming back to where he wants it. And that's always the most important thing. I've said this before - there is the physical response to coming back from an injury, and then there is the psychological, and sometimes they don't coincide with one another. Sometimes physically you're ready, but psychologically you're not. But I think he's at a real good place right now.

He was also asked if Bowman suffered a setback during his return to practice late in the season. Baalke said there was no setback, but it was "just a matter of what's the best decision for him long-term at that time".

Finally, he was asked about Jimmie Ward's rehab from a foot injury:

BARROWS: Where is Jimmie Ward right now as far as coming back from that foot injury?

BAALKE: Good. He's on schedule or slightly ahead of schedule, and progressing very well.

BARROWS: On the field, will he take part in the offseason program, the minicamp that's coming up in April?

BAALKE: I don't know that. I think he will be ready, but whether we allow him back into it at that stage or not, that will be determined by the medical staff.

From that, my guess is Ward will be brought along a little more slowly and not participate in the early part of the program. Hopefully I am wrong, but they might just take their time and get him ready for the later stages of the offseason workout program.

The program is nine weeks, which a team gets ten weeks to complete (meaning a week off). For teams with a new head coach, they get twelve weeks to complete the nine week program. Last year the program started on Monday, April 21. This year the program is likely beginning on April 6.

This program provides the first opportunity to see how injured players are coming along. The first two weeks of the program are strictly strength and conditioning, and rehab work, with only strength and conditioning coaches. Quarterbacks can throw with receivers who are uncovered by any other player, and nobody can wear helmets. Once the team gets into the second phase of the program, all coaches are allowed on the field, and player instruction can begin. Phase three is when we will see OTAs and minicamp and arguably the most significant development time.

It is phase two and three where we will get a better handle on injured players. Taking part in limited workouts is not the be all and end all of a player's status, but it is something on which we can build. The 49ers have a numerous players coming back from injuries, including Bowman, Hunter and Thomas, as well as guys like Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Trey Millard and others. April, May and June will start to give us a handle on how their recovery is coming along.