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49ers' Bowman and Staley are returning to the Pro Bowl

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) NaVorro Bowman's latest selection to the Pro Bowl already feels special.

The 49ers linebacker missed all of last season rehabbing a severe left knee injury and questions remained about his durability and ability to return to a high level of performance.

Bowman had all the answers. There are two regular-season games remaining, including Sunday's game in Detroit. He's started every game and is the NFC leader in tackles with 135.

Bowman, selected to his third Pro Bowl, said Wednesday it was a tribute to his mindset and all the hard work he put in getting his knee back in shape.

He'll be joined at the Pro Bowl by San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley, who was his selected to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl. Left guard Alex Boone was selected as an alternate to the game.

''I always approach the game the way I should,'' Bowman said. ''It was a long, hard road of work. It's not all about athletic ability; you get the coaches' mindset into your game.''

Bowman sustained extensive damage to his knee late in the NFC championship game in January 2014 in Seattle. He was taken off the field on a cart.

That's a distant memory, even though Bowman doesn't feel as if he's all the way back, ''but definitely at the level I can still make plays.''

Unable to attend the first two times, he's looking forward to sharing the trip with his family.

''You always want to go to these types of things. Me and my family are looking forward it,'' Bowman said. ''They've always heard about the Pro Bowl and never got a chance to experience it.''

Bowman, who is tied for the NFL lead with 99 solo tackles, said he values that statistic as a defining marker.

''As a linebacker you are looked at to make plays,'' he said. ''Tackling is the No. 1 thing in your game. It can make or break you.''

Bowman never wandered from the game while he was out. He spent plenty of time in the clubhouse and film room last year, serving as a leader to younger players.

His approach to his injury rehabilitation was relentless, setting another example.

''I want to be looked at as a guy who can encourage others who have any kind of injury,'' Bowman said. ''I'm one example of how to get it done.''

49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said it's hard to know how players will respond coming off such a serious injury.

''What he's done, is really hard to do,'' Mangini said. ''It's hard to do physically. It's hard to do mentally. It's a great story.''

Staley said Bowman is an inspiration in an otherwise disappointing season.

''He's always made big plays for us,'' Staley said. ''He misses an entire season and in getting back, he's done a terrific job of preparation throughout the year and he's being rewarded for it.''

Staley called the season a disappointment because the 49ers are 4-10 ''and that's all that matters.''

NOTES: DuJuan Harris joined his eighth different organization Tuesday when he signed with the 49ers following Shaun Draughn's knee injury Sunday. He's been with five different organizations this year alone, most recently on the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad. ''I'm blessed,'' he said. ''It's a really good day as long as I am working. As long as I am capable of playing this game, I want to play.'' He took a job selling cars at one point, though it lasted a week and he never make a sale. ''I came close twice,'' he said. ''I kept telling myself to hang on.'' ... WR Torrey Smith (back, toe), OL Marcus Martin (concussion), OL Alex Boone (knee) , LB Michael Wilhoite (ankle) and LB Ahmad Brooks (unspecified) did not practice. ... LB Aaron Lynch, who missed two games with a concussion, took part in full practice.


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