Frank Gore still wants to be star of 49ers' running back show

SANTA CLARA -- Frank Gore hasn't been surrounded by this many talented running backs since, perhaps, his freshman year at the University of Miami.
"I'm cool with it," Gore said Monday at 49ers training camp.

Yes, the 49ers' all-time leading NFL rusher has welcomed in such newcomers as Brandon Jacobs, fresh from his second Super Bowl win with the New York Giants, and LaMichael James, the 49ers' second-round draft pick out of offensive-powerhouse Oregon.

So how will the 49ers divide carries among that trio, as well as Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Rock Cartwright and starting fullback Bruce Miller?

"Everybody wants to play. I know I want to play," Gore said. "The type of player I am, I've got to get in a rhythm. I feel the more I'm in, the better I get."
Don't interpret that as Gore being selfish, however.

"It's not a matter of being a ball hog. Frank likes to work," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He likes as much work as he can get."

Starting at 6:15 each morning, Gore is among the first players to arrive at the 49ers facility. He works out 30 minutes on an elliptical machine before lifting weights to "get his sweat in."

In training-camp parlance, Gore is putting himself through double days. Last year's labor deal prevents teams from practicing twice a day with pads. Thus, Gore considers his morning workout the first of what would have been two daily practices.

"I've seen a laserlike focus from Frank," Harbaugh said. "On the practice field, it's the same Frank. Same demanding, intense, enthusiastic guy on the field."

Gore showed all those traits on one of many carries Monday, taking Alex Smith's handoff and dashing 50 yards down field before exchanging a high-five with general manager Trent Baalke.

Last season, Gore's longest run was for 55 yards at Detroit. It came after he was stopped for a 3-yard loss on the previous play. The following week against Cleveland, Gore's longest run was for 26 yards, also after a 3-yard loss.

Those bursts, and an ability to split time with Hunter, have convinced offensive coordinator Greg Roman that Gore doesn't need a slew of carries to find a successful rhythm.

"Shoot, I've seen Frank come in after not carrying the ball for a while and pop a pretty good looking run," Roman said. "So, I think Frank might be selling himself short a little bit there."

Gore now finds himself part of what he agreed is the "most talented" backfield since he joined the 49ers in 2005.

Not only is he "cool with it," he's also seen it play out before. He encountered a crowded backfield before, though it was a decade ago in Miami. Also on the Hurricanes were Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport and Jarrett Payton, the son of NFL legend Walter Payton.

Said Gore: "I'm competitive. I could have gone to any school in the country coming out of high school, but I went to Miami, and they already had three good backs."

Last season, Gore eclipsed Joe "The Jet" Perry's franchise record for most NFL rushing yards, and Gore finished with 1,211 yards. That's the second-highest output of his career, trailing only his 1,695-yard season in 2006 when he became the starter.

Sure to cut into Gore's workload this season are, as he describes them, the "very big and strong" Jacobs and the "very quick and fast" James.

Like so many others returnees from last year's NFC runner-up squad, Gore yearns for more success.

"We're still working like we didn't make it, like we still have stuff to prove," Gore said. "We have a bunch of great guys."

Entering his eighth season, Gore remains the leader of that increasingly talented bunch at running back.

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus