SEATTLE — 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman suffered what is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which could require reconstructive surgery this offseason.
"Preliminary it looks like an ACL," coach Jim Harbaugh said following a 23-17 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game. "Tough break for NaVorro."
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Bowman, who had been among the Defensive Player of the Year hopefuls, was injured with 8:45 remaining Sunday when he forced a fumble near the goal line.
"I look up, and NaVorro has the ball, and I'm thinking, 'That's a heck of a play, he got the ball,'" fellow linebacker and close friend Patrick Willis said.
"Then all of a sudden, I don't know what happened, I was looking at him and he didn't have the ball anymore, he was holding his knee and was yelling. That's when, I don't know, I kind of lost track of where the ball was and more so just worried about him. I never heard him yell like that, or even stay down for a moment."
Bowman stripped the ball from Jermaine Kearse at the San Francisco 1. Kearse was hit by safety Eric Reid and was knocked into Bowman's extended left leg. Bowman's knee bent awkwardly inward. Players in the pile trying to find the fumble immediately started waving to the 49ers bench for help.
Bowman was quickly carted off the field in a frightening scene.
"Bo was like our leader," nose tackle Glenn Dorsey said. "A great football player, a great human being. Just to see that happen is really unfortunate. I know he's going to train hard, rehab hard and come back even stronger."
In the second quarter, the 49ers lost starting left guard Mike Iupati to what the 49ers believe is a fractured ankle — "We think so," Harbaugh said. Iupati was injured on Anthony Dixon's 1-yard touchdown dive.
He slowly left the locker room with a walking boot over his left foot and on crutches.
Iupati was down on the field for several minutes, then had to be helped to the sideline by teammates and was putting very little weight on his right leg. Iupati eventually was taken to the locker room on a cart.
The 49ers lost running back LaMichael James for a brief time after he took a hit from Seattle's Ricardo Lockette on a punt return.
James was on his back on the field for several minutes before being helped to the sideline with his arms around trainers, but then was back out after halftime.
James had attempted to field the punt from Seattle's Jon Ryan on the first play of the second quarter, but the ball hit off his chest. As he attempted to reach for the ball, Lockette hit James hard to the turf.