- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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NaVorro Bowman isn't sure when he will return from the torn ACL he suffered on a memorable play in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle. But the San Francisco 49ers' linebacker has no doubt he will return to his star form -- and he has some unfinished business to tend to.
Bowman said he is out to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award that many, including Bowman himself, thought he should have captured in 2013.
"I'm going to come back and (win the award)," Bowman said in a telephone interview Thursday after spending the day at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. "I thought I should have won it last year, but last year is gone. But it has put some more fire in my body."
In February, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects Bowman to return around midseason. Bowman said that continues to be the timeline, although physicians believe he is ahead of schedule.
The inside linebacker had a spectacular season in 2013. It was shocking to many around the league that he didn't receive any votes in the Associated Press process as the award went to Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, a player Bowman said he greatly respects.
Bowman suffered a major injury on a signature play. He stripped the ball and had possession of it while tearing his ACL at the goal line against the Seahawks.
On Thursday, Bowman said he knew he blew out his knee while holding onto the ball.
"I was just squeezing onto the ball and hoping the referee would see it," Bowman said. "But I knew I tore my knee."
Harbaugh said at the NFL combine in Indianapolis that his brother-in-law, Indiana University men's basketball coach Tom Crean, had shown the video of Bowman making the play while injured to his team to inspire it.
"I've been commended a lot for that play from people the last couple of months," Bowman said. "The play just exemplified how I can. I was going to hold onto that ball as long as possible."