Ailene Voisin, sports columnist


Frank Gore tends to get lost in the shuffle on a 49ers team with so many story lines, but the running back remains unfazed.

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Ailene Voisin: 'Just-play-football' approach by Gore hard to second-guess

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 - 12:39 pm

Frank Gore isn't very sexy, though we don't mean sexy in the conventional sense. We're talking Twitter, TV, blogs, postgame sound bites, crowds around his locker and demands for his time.

On a 49ers team that produces drama in daily doses, the star running back tends to get lost in the credits.

One week the coach switches quarterbacks. Another week the best defensive lineman suffers a potential season-ending injury. This past week, the former waiter who became a record-setting kicker survives a threat to his job security – though he can't be feeling very comfortable knowing his new backup is on the premises.

And Gore? What does he always say, whether he's preparing for the season opener or today's NFL divisional playoff matchup against the Green Bay Packers?

"I just play football."

The man is a broken record. He just plays football. But he also breaks records, ranking as the 49ers' all-time rushing leader in yards, carries and touchdowns. And, despite medical records that include two reconstructive knee surgeries, a fractured hand, sore hips and more bruises than blemishes on a crash dummy, he is completing his eighth NFL season.

Most runners his age (29) have been cashing retirement checks and nursing arthritic knees for years.

Yet Gore keeps overcoming adversity, defying skeptics and adjusting to both physical changes and changes in his work environment; he clearly seems to have benefited from offensive coordinator Greg Roman's decision to spread the load among Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

More so than at this time last season, Gore still runs and blocks like Gore.

At 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds, with a thick, powerful frame and a low center of gravity, Gore both probes and attacks openings, displaying a unique combination of power and shiftiness. His ability to change speeds and switch directions make him a beast to tackle – talents he often says he developed while growing up in a single-family home and in difficult circumstances in Coral Gables, Fla.

Not that he needs further incentive against the Packers. Only two postseason appearances in eight years is another sore point.

"Last year we made it," Gore said earlier in the week, "but we had so many down years. This time we know we should be here. You get to this point, I feel like everybody is playing for one thing: the Super Bowl."

Gore has been known to call out teammates for poor performances, not-so-quietly lobby for more carries and express mild consternation at the lack of attention he receives.

But Gore routinely shakes off any perceived slights and resigns himself to the fact that, on a team with a high-profile coach in Jim Harbaugh, a dynamic new quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, and a dominating defensive cast headed by the ailing Justin Smith, there is only so much Twitter and TV time to go around; the camera can't be everywhere.

Nonetheless, he sits at his locker and politely accommodates the crowds, whatever the size. Catch him in the right moment, and he is both revealing and candid.

For instance: Harbaugh's much-debated switch from Alex Smith to the more versatile Kaepernick, to less predictable read-option offensive schemes designed to capitalize on the second-year quarterback's superior mobility and playmaking skills, has not been easy; admittedly, there is an element of Gore that is very much old school, very much a "give me the ball and let me run" mentality.

"It's different," Gore said. "I just have to be patient, and when the ball is in my hands, try to make a play. It's on him (Kaepernick, to make decisions)."

Regardless of how many carries he gets or how many passes are thrown his way today, Gore is mindful of what he's accomplished and what he has yet to achieve.

"You don't get too many opportunities like this," he told reporters earlier in the week. "It's not guaranteed that you're going to the postseason every year."

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Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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