CONCORD -- NaVorro Bowman walked into an apparel store on Tuesday without the aid of another person or crutches and with a smile on his face. That's quite a contrast from the last time 49ers fans saw Bowman in public, when he lay on the ground writhing in pain in the team's season-ending loss.
Bowman suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee during a fourth-quarter play against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game Jan. 19.
On Tuesday, Bowman's progress was obvious by the way he strolled into a store in an East Bay mall, and laughed it up as he signed autographs.
"Look at me, I'm walking," Bowman said. "So, that's good enough, man. I'm not really thinking about practice or anything. I'm happy to be walking and happy to be able to play again."
Bowman, who turns 26 in late May, is rehabilitating his knee in Miami under the guidance of the trainer who helped Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson bounce back strong from a similar knee injury in 2011.
Once he completes that portion of his rehab, Bowman said, he intends to work out under the watchful eyes of 49ers trainers and doctors in Santa Clara.
So far, so good, Bowman said Tuesday. In fact, he said his doctors told him that he's ahead of schedule.
"It feels great," Bowman said of his knee. "It's early, but I'm doing well. I came back and saw (people in) the organization and they're excited to see how far I am. So, I'll keep working hard and see where I end up."
Bowman recovered a Seahawks fumble on the play on which he injured his knee. However, a Seahawks player wrestled the ball from Bowman before officials sifted through the pile.
Bowman clearly had the ball in his possession and was down by contact. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh was not permitted to challenge the officials' ruling at the time.
As a result, the so-called NaVorro Bowman Rule that allows for loose-ball scrambles to be reviewed by officials was passed at the NFL owners meetings last month.
"That doesn't fix my knee," Bowman said of the rule change, "but (the wrong call) won't happen anymore."
Bowman said he watched replays of his injury the day after the game. Such injuries are part of the game.
"I'm not really a grudge type man," Bowman said. "I got to move on if I want to continue playing."
Harbaugh said he wouldn't be surprised if Bowman bounces back in time for the 49ers regular-season opener in early September.
It's more likely, though, Harbaugh said, that Bowman won't be ready to play in a game until midway through the season. Bowman said he doesn't have a timetable for his return to practice or playing in a game just yet.
He's just focusing on his rehab and being thankful that his injury wasn't serious enough to end his NFL career.
"I'm always looking at the bigger picture," Bowman said. "I'm young and I know I still have a lot of football left in me. So, all I have to do is get my knee back feeling good, if not better than it was. Then I'll be fine."
It's conceivable that Bowman will be placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and remain there for the first half of the season.
The 49ers are familiar with just such a scenario. Top wide receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles during an offseason workout last year and missed the first 11 games. Crabtree returned in time to work his way into football shape and be in peak form for the postseason.
Follow Steve Corkran on Twitter at twitter.com/CorkOnTheNFL.