NFC West coaches: Frank Gore will be productive for Colts

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts have been looking to team quarterback Andrew Luck with a running back who would help ease some of his workload for nearly three years now.

Vick Ballard hasn’t been able to stay healthy since rushing for 814 yards his rookie season in 2012. Ahmad Bradshaw was effective, but like Ballard, he couldn’t stay healthy. And Trent Richardson? Everybody knows that was a disaster and that chapter has closed.

Now it’s Frank Gore's turn to try to fill that role for the Colts.

And while some question whether Gore can still produce at the age 31, the common theme at the NFL owners meetings was that the Colts signed a player who will produce.

“I think there are some freaks of nature out there and he’s one of them because his skill level hasn’t diminished at all and I think he’ll be a good fit,” Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You don’t like playing safety against Frank because one of you is getting knocked out and it’s usually the safety.”

Despite losing Gore to the Colts, you could hear the passion and respect for Gore in San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula’s voice.

“It’s Frankie G, man,” Tomsula said. “You watch the film, I just love the guy and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Frank and there are enough people on [the Colts staff] who know who Frank is. You see Frank the player, but Frank the guy, he’s going to mean a lot to the team.

Gore’s production during his 10-year career can’t be questioned. He’s rushed for over 1,00 yards in eight of those 10 seasons. He's also a durable player, having only missed 12 games in his career.

To put into perspective what Gore could mean to the Colts, Indianapolis hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007 when Joseph Addai ran for 1,072 yards. The Colts have only had one player (Ballard) rush for 100 yards in a game in Luck’s 48 career regular-season games.

“I think it’s a very exciting matchup for those guys,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You add the receiver (Andre Johnson), too. It has to be really exciting. I talked to Coach [Pagano] about that. Has to be exciting going into this offseason with those two new elements to add with the quarterback on a really good team already. [Gore] has tremendous style. You feel his intensity when he plays. Again, he can come through in the clutch and make things happen when you need him. He’s tough to play against and anybody who has him on his team has to be excited about it.”

Pagano has described Gore as an every-down running back. With that said, the coach doesn’t plan to overwork Gore in practice during the week because they want to conserve him for game day.

Gore will be 32 years old when the 2015 season starts. Ricky Williams is the last running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards at 32 years old or older. He rushed for 1,121 yards while with the Miami Dolphins in 2009.

Gore doesn’t need to rush for 1,695 yards like he did in 2006, but he needs to be productive, which many say he will be, once he lines up in the backfield for the Colts.

“You’ve got to be able to run the football,” Pagano said. “We talk about protect the quarterback, protect the quarterback, protect the quarterback. Well, one way is to have success on the ground and be able to hand it off, where he’s not in harm’s way standing back there having to throw it 50 times a game because you get behind and can’t run the football. I think it’s huge.”

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