SANTA CLARA -- Linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s hard work and performance on the field earned him recognition from NFL fans, players and coaches.

Bowman, who did not play last season while rehabbing a severely injured left knee, is tied atop the NFL lead for tackles. And on Tuesday, he was announced to the third Pro Bowl selection of his career.

[NEWS: Bowman selected to Pro Bowl]

“It’s not the level I want to be at, yet, but (I’m) at a level that I’m definitely still able to make plays,” Bowman said.

The comeback has not been easy for Bowman, who has experienced his ups and downs during his return to the field. Some weeks have been better than others.

“I had to have the correct mindset to keep it going forward and keep progressing,” Bowman said. “It wasn’t just me going out there and letting the knee work. I really had to push through some times when I felt like the knee needed a break that day. But (I was) hearing from the trainers that I needed to move that day.”

Bowman has started all 14 games and has only safety Eric Reid has played more than Bowman’s 976 snaps on the 49ers’ defense this season. Bowman felt as if he broke down a wall on Sunday with his agility in the 49ers’ 24-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I felt like last week I got down in some positions that I haven’t gotten down into all year,” Bowman said. “That was really encouraging for me to see, not being afraid to go down and get those tackles.

 

“A lot of twisting, turning, getting down on my toes, really low, those things are challenging early in the process. To see me doing them was really encouraging.”

Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini has seen the progress Bowman has made since he was cleared to take part in the entire offseason program after sitting out all of the 2014 season.

“What he’s done is really hard to do,” Mangini said. “It’s hard to do physically. It’s hard to do mentally. And he’s gotten progressively better.”

Mangini pointed to the simple change-of-direction movements that are unscripted and have to be performed in a game without even thinking. That’s where he has seen Bowman make his great physical improvements.

“A lot of the rehab is very defined,” Mangini said. “Now, he has to react and that part of it from where we were then to where he is now, I’m really happy for him. It’s a great story.”