SANTA CLARA Frank Gore is ailing, two other running backs are idling, and the 49ers are about to hit the backstretch of the season.
But coach Jim Harbaugh signaled there will be no change in San Francisco's running back status quo in the near future. Asked this week about the possibility of more action for Brandon Jacobs, who has yet to play a snap this season, Harbaugh said nothing is imminent.
"I think that's all decided on the field," he said. "Brandon came here, in training camp was doing very well and got injured. Then he is working his way back. That's a process that's going on, and simultaneously you have some guys who have played very well at that position."
Harbaugh was referring to Gore and his backup, Kendall Hunter, the only running back tandem in the league averaging more than five yards a carry this season.
The 49ers currently rank second in rushing, averaging 176.6 yards a game, nearly 50 more yards a contest than last year's average. The offensive line is quickly establishing itself as one of the league's best units.
Why tinker with that formula? One reason might be to avoid the same pitfall that has ensnared the 49ers in previous years and ensure that the team's top runner remains healthy through the season.
A year ago, Gore had had four consecutive games of 100-plus rushing yards heading into a Week 8 game against the Redskins. He went over 100 yards in that contest, too, but also emerged with an ankle injury.
He was limited the following week against the Giants six carries, no yards and he never reached the 100-yard plateau again in 2011.
Gore again is injured at the midpoint of the season after he was blasted in the back in last Thursday's win over Seattle, coming away with bruised ribs.
But he seems to be recovering quickly he went through a full practice Monday and otherwise has less wear and tear now than he did after seven games last season.
He has 43 fewer carries, thanks in part to an offense that is passing more than it did a year ago and to additional carries by Hunter and Wildcat quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Gore, 29, trails only Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller, a change-of-pace back who has sprinter's speed, in averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He's on pace for 1,374 yards this season, which would be his best output since he ran for 1,695 yards in 2006.
Jacobs, for one, doesn't think Gore's rib injury will keep Gore out of next Monday's game against the Cardinals.
"Frank is fine," Jacobs said. "Stuff like that backs get it all the time. It's not going to slow him down at all."
Jacobs was frustrated about his lack of playing time the week before the 49ers faced the Giants, his former team, but he has taken a more patient approach since.
"I want to be a great teammate and to work hard," he said Monday. "Whenever they're ready for me, I'll be prepared."
Rookie runner LaMichael James also said he's willing to wait. James is behind even Jacobs on the depth chart, and the second-round draft pick has yet to suit up for a regular-season game.
For now, James said he's willing to spend practices playing the role of an upcoming opponent and to take notes on how Gore operates.
"He's not lazy," James said. "He comes out to practice and he works hard. He always finishes runs. He's a complete pro. I just want to (model) myself after him, try to pick up some of the cues so one day I can be a great running back in this league."