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49ers hurt from serious injury to NaVorro Bowman

Former Idaho Vandal Mike Iupati navigated the 49ers locker room Monday on crutches after breaking an ankle in Sunday’s title game loss. (Associated Press)
Former Idaho Vandal Mike Iupati navigated the 49ers locker room Monday on crutches after breaking an ankle in Sunday’s title game loss. (Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – NaVorro Bowman slowly made his way inside 49ers team headquarters on crutches Monday for a short visit before departing, one day after the All-Pro linebacker sustained a serious left knee injury in San Francisco’s NFC championship loss at Seattle that was feared could put his 2014 season in question.

A person with knowledge of Bowman’s injury said the All-Pro 49ers linebacker has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

The person said Monday that Bowman would have surgery for the ACL tear but that the MCL is likely to heal with rest and he is expected to be ready for the 2014 season – and “it’s not as bad as feared.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press because the team hadn’t made a formal announcement regarding results of tests on Bowman’s knee.

“He’s a warrior. He’s going to push forward, there’s no question,” linebackers coach Jim Leavitt said. “He’s a special guy, tremendously talented, but he’s got such a heart. He’s been so good with me it’s unbelievable. He’s great young man. He’ll be fine. We’re going into a new stadium and he’ll be ready to go when we start.”

In addition, left guard Mike Iupati broke his left ankle in the loss. The former University of Idaho All-American said he doesn’t know whether he will need surgery, but is scheduled to be further evaluated today.

“This is a bad-luck year,” said Iupati, who missed four games with a left knee injury. “I’ll probably be in a cast for a while. I’ll be here rehabbing. It’s day by day and wish for the best.”

As the 49ers braced for Bowman’s lengthy recovery, they were still dealing with the sting of another season that ended just short of the goal.

Safety Donte Whitner was irked at Seattle fans involved with throwing popcorn and other debris on Bowman as he was carted off the field.

“That’s pure ignorance,” said Whitner, who noted losing to the rival Seahawks “makes it a little worse ‘cuz I wanted to send those fans home crying.”

And how about the postgame comments by cornerback Richard Sherman, calling 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree “mediocre” and “sorry” following his game-saving defensive play in the end zone during the waning moments?

“Pure ignorance, simple as that,” Whitner said.

Added tight end Vernon Davis: “He talks a lot. Sometimes you just need to shut your mouth. You got the win. Be humble, be gracious and just accept it. …

“Maybe he could learn from other people around the league that know how to be a true gentleman that show good sportsmanship.”

For Bowman, this is a terrible ending to a career season in which he emerged as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. In December, Bowman’s three sacks, two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery were unmatched by any other player all season.

The 25-year-old, drafted out of Penn State in 2010 and signed to a five-year contract extension worth $45.25 million in November 2012, had 145 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles this season.

“He sacrificed his body for this team. He’s our leader and arguably the best player that we have,” rookie safety Eric Reid said. “To see him go down, it hurts. I’ll be praying for him and wishing him a speedy recovery.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh, Leavitt and the other coaches met with their players Monday morning, passing out paperwork on the offseason conditioning program before everybody packed their belongings and parted ways.