The Mercury News

Moving on minus Bowman

- By Carl Steward csteward@bayareanew­

SANTA CLARA — With 12 games to go and a short week to boot, the 49ers can’t afford to spend much time lamenting the loss of linebacker NaVorro Bowman, as omnipresen­t a factor as he was for their defense.

Bowman was lost for the season Sunday when he went down with an Achilles’ tendon tear in the 24-17 loss to Dallas. Defensive coordinato­r Jim O’Neil said Tuesday that his unit is trying to remain upbeat and make adjustment­s to cover Bowman’s monumental void at inside linebacker.

“It’s obviously a huge loss for our defense,” O’Neil said. “Any defense would miss his playmaking ability and his presence on the football field. But I’m confident in the guys in that room to be able to step up, and I still see NaVorro being a big part of what we do here as far as his leadership abilities in the classroom with the guys and as his presence in the locker room.” O’Neil said much will be decided in practices, but that there are a number of candidates who could assume Bowman’s spot.

“We’re kind of seeing how practice goes, but like I’ve said several times, if you’re on the 53 (man roster), we’re going to need you,” he said. “So it’ll be between Nick (Bellore), Mike Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges and Shayne Skov.”

Bellore would appear to have the inside track. He replaced Bowman on Sunday, and despite being primarily a special teams player throughout his six seasons in the NFL, he has a history with O’Neil while both were with the New York Giants.

“The one thing with Nick, he’s played in a similar system to this in New York for a long time, so he’s actually been around longer than any of the other guys,” O’Neil said. “He’s just an absolute film junkie and just loves to study football, so you feel good about him communicat­ing and setting stuff up.

“I’ve never viewed him as just a special teams guy,” O’Neil added. “I think Nick is a really good linebacker, I think he can play in this league. He played a lot for us when I was in New York at inside backer when we had injuries, and he does a great job preparing himself. He knows the position.”

Rookie defensive lineman n DeForest Buckner appeared to suffer a serious foot injury Sunday’s game, but O’Neil termed Buckner “day to day” and said he was still optimistic he could play against the Cardinals.

Buckner was still in a walking boot Tuesday and participat­ed in early stretching, but did not practice and is listed as questionab­le.

Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who was unable to practice Monday due to an ankle injury, did limited work Tuesday. Guard Zane Beadles (ankle), tight end Vance McDonald (hip) and cornerback Chris Davis were also limited.

Arizona quarterbac­k n Carson Palmer, currently in concussion protocol after being knocked out of a 17-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, could still play against the 49ers, coach Bruce Arians told Bay Area reporters via conference call.

Arians said Palmer has to clear protocol to play, but likes how he is progressin­g.

“I just left a meeting with him and he looked good, so we’ll have to wait and see,” said Arians. “I think there’s a chance (he can make it through the protocol in time).”

If Palmer is unable to play, backup Drew Stanton will get the call for the 1-3 Cardinals.

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