SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said his new extension with the San Francisco 49ers provides a good example for his younger teammates.
''You basically have to crawl before you can walk and understand that the guys that do make the big money in this league work hard and have to wait their time to get to that point,'' Bowman said. ''It's just about motivating guys. I've had several teammates walk up to me and say this is motivation for them. And that's what you want.''
The 49ers locker room leader this week signed a $44 million, four-year extension, including $20 million guaranteed, with three seasons left on his prior deal. He's signed through 2022, when he will be 34.
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The four-time All-Pro missed all of 2014 after suffering tears in his left anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the playoffs following the 2013 season. He returned last season to lead the NFL with 154 tackles and was selected for the Pro Bowl.
''For me, asking for the deal, they understood why. I knew that it wasn't a popular thing to do with three years left. It's basically about being fair,'' he said. ''It just shows how good of an organization they are and honorable to their players and the work that I've put in.''
When Bowman returned from injury, the 49ers were not the same team that reached three straight conference championship games and played in a Super Bowl. Gone were coach Jim Harbaugh and stalwarts Patrick Willis, running back Frank Gore and defensive lineman Justin Smith.
Now, the new-look 49ers are Bowman's team in the first year of coach Chip Kelly's tenure.
In his second season back from the knee injury, San Francisco expects Bowman to be closer to his pre-injury form.
''NaVorro's been great,'' defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said. ''I think he's really started to step into that leadership role and there's a lot of guys in the NFL who are lead-by-example guys. I think NaVorro has kind of taken that next step and he's a `follow me or else' guy, which are the kind of leaders you need to have to have a great unit in this league.''
Bowman said his goal entering the NFL was to last 10 seasons and make it to the Hall of Fame. The length of his extension would run through his 14th year.
''You never want to leave any money on the table, but you definitely want to leave this game being able to walk,'' Bowman said. ''Me for instance, being able to keep up with my kids and things like that. I haven't thought that far yet, but just glad to be locked in and finish my career as a 49er.''
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