Frank Gore contributing, having fun

SAN FRANCISCO – Frank Gore is too tough on himself. His work ethic is twice the size (at least) of his ego. He never complains about having a bad day. His career has been disrupted by injuries, the Alex Smith circus and the 49ers' coaching carousel, but other than the occasional request for a few more carries, this is usually the guy who is just glad to have a job.

Sunday was different, though. Sunday was more than the average NFL work shift. After the 49ers completed their methodical victory over the visiting Cleveland Browns, Gore was so delighted, he practically begged to be pinched. He also opened up a little bit about his least favorite topic: himself.

"I'm so happy, man," said a smiling Gore, shaking his head. "We're 6-1. We're winning. I'm just having fun. (Before,) I was young, man. I was thinking about the Pro Bowls and all other crazy stuff. I was selfish. Now, I'm not thinking about yards, just enjoying the ride."

That's not exactly all he is doing, of course.

Against a stingy Browns defense, he carried the ball 31 times for 134 yards (4.3 average), scored a touchdown, scored what appeared to be a second touchdown and moved past Roger Craig into second place among the 49ers' all-time rushing leaders.

Gore has contributed at least 125 yards and a touchdown against four consecutive opponents, exploiting the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and Browns.

Additionally – and perhaps most impressively – he has been emblematic of these surprising 49ers – stubborn, resilient, occasionally spectacular.
And this is not a huge man. At 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds, with much of his thickness in his upper body, he relies on a combination of speed and power, little wasted motion and, increasingly, the improved blocking of teammates.

In one of the most impressive possessions of the afternoon – the seven-yard touchdown that was called back early in the second quarter when officials thought Gore's knee hit the ground outside the end zone – the 323-pound Anthony Davis appeared to clear out three Browns, creating a gaping hole over the left side.

"The linemen love (Gore)," said Alex Smith. "Great vision as a back. But, you look at yards after contact, he's such a great runner."

That hasn't changed, though Gore swears he has become a different player in some respects, particularly in his approach to conditioning. Because of his history of ankle and groin injuries, and a hip fracture that ended his 2010 season a month early, he has spent innumerable hours consulting 49ers trainers and coaches. Running backs coach Tom Rathman has been particularly influential, Gore said, urging him to incorporate cardio exercises into his morning routine.

As much as anything, he had to incorporate a who-gives-a-hoot attitude toward his early-season skeptics.

And there were plenty. The 49ers' signing of Gore to a three-year extension, coupled with his perplexing and sluggish three-game start, was debated almost as heatedly as his quarterback's prospects under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

But when you win? No one remembers. Contracts remain expensive, but talk becomes cheap. Negative water cooler chatter simply evaporates. Gore isn't the type to hold grudges, either.

"That was big," he acknowledged of his individual effort. "The Cleveland Browns had a very disciplined defense. They don't make mistakes. But they did a great job up front.

"Our coordinator did a great job. We just got rolling. Offense can't be one man. And my man Alex (Smith) is making plays."

Of course, then he turned the conversation back to the 49ers and that 6-1 record. There will be no need to wear a mask this year on Halloween.
Asked if he remembers what it feels like to feel this good with November approaching, he just grinned.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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