In March, the 49ers signed inside linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year contract with $11.5 million guaranteed.

In April, they used a first-round pick on Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

And now, in May, head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked Tuesday about how playing time will be divided at a position group that also includes NaVorro Bowman, a four-time, first-team All-Pro.

Said Shanahan: “In my opinion, there’s going to be a very good player who is not out there all the time.”

Bowman’s thoughts on the matter? That very good player will be Smith or Foster.

“I won’t be on the sideline,” Bowman said. “I’m going to tell you that now.”

Given Bowman’s pedigree, it won’t be a surprise if he’s starting in Week 1 against the Panthers. However, it’s also clear that he’ll need to prove to the 49ers’ new regime that he remains a force after sustaining a torn left Achilles in October.

Bowman also sustained a multi-ligament tear in his left knee in January 2014 and his injuries have kept him off the field for 28 of 48 games the past three seasons.

Shanahan said he’s been impressed by how well Bowman has recovered from his Achilles tear, saying it doesn’t look like he was injured. Bowman has been a full participant in offseason practices, but Shanahan noted they will continue to make sure he doesn’t do too much and suffer a potential setback.

“We definitely have to balance that, especially with a competitive guy that’s trying to win a job,” Shanahan said. “He’s probably not going to tell us.”

Twitter: @Eric_Branch

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