Rookie Bowman ready to step in for Spikes

NaVorro Bowman (AP/Paul Sakuma)

Starting linebacker Takeo Spikes didn't practice for a second consecutive day, so rookie NaVorro Bowman is preparing for his first NFL start.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – As always, rookie linebacker NaVorro Bowman is preparing this week as if he's going to play Sunday for the San Francisco 49ers. He's still not sure if he'll get an opportunity to start in place of veteran Takeo Spikes, but that doesn't really matter.

"I prepare the same way every week, like I'm playing," Bowman said Thursday. "I think of myself as a starter."

When Spikes, the veteran inside linebacker, went down with a knee contusion Monday night against the New Orleans Saints, Bowman was sent in. Although the 49ers are thin at the position, he proved capable, finishing the game with five tackles.

"I think I did very well," said Bowman, a third-round draft pick out of Penn State. "The guys said I did very well. You know, I have a Porsche outside, and they said, ‘Man, you paid off that Porsche Monday night.' I take that as a good thing and try to keep getting better."

Spikes sat out practice for a second day in a row, although defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said, "I think he'll be ready to roll." But even if he's not, Manusky indicated he has several options behind Bowman.

Among them are using outside linebackers Parys Haralson or Manny Lawson as backups, primarily because of their experience with the system. On Wednesday, coach Mike Singletary had said Ahmad Brooks might be Bowman's backup if Spikes doesn't play.

"It's just their understanding, their whole concept of the defense," Manusky said of Haralson and Lawson. "They've been here longer than anyone else."

Bowman has been taking reps with the first team this week and relishes the opportunity to prove he can help the 49ers in his first season, whether on defense or special teams.

"For me to have this opportunity to possibly start with Takeo being down, it's tremendous," he said. "I'm blessed to have it. But if I don't start, I'll still get a chance to contribute on special teams and do the little things that really matter, things that the books don't keep a record of."

INJURIES: Spikes, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) and center Eric Heitmann (fibula) did not practice Thursday. Running back Anthony Dixon (back) and cornerback Will James (ankle) had limited practice.

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