Asked how he’ll deal with a challenge from a phalanx of young and talented running backs this year, Frank Gore today smiled and said, “I’m from Miami, man.”
He could have left it at that. Gore became the hard-nosed running back he is today by fighting for carries, espcially at the talent-laden University of Miami where he first competed with Clinton Portis for a role in the Hurricanes backfield and later did the same with Willis McGahee. Gore was leading McGahee for the starting spot in 2002 when he blew out his knee and had to sit out the season.
“I’ve been out there competing ever since I left high school,” he said. “I’ve been with top guys who have been in the league. It’s all to get each other better, and I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to have to get this role. But while I’m here, I’m going to look at it as a challenge.”
This year, Gore leads a group of upstarts, including 2013 draft pick Marcus Lattimore and this year’s second-round pick, Carlos Hyde. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Jewel Hampton round out the 49ers’ group of tailbacks in training camp. It’s easily the most talented group Gore, 31, has faced in his 10 NFL seasons.
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One of the questions that’s bound to dog him this season is, will there be an 11th season? Another: If he does continue to play in 2015, will it be with the 49ers? Gore is entering the final year of his contract and could be a free agent in March.
The running back said he is focused on this season. And he didn’t seem willing to relinquish any carries to the young guns.
Last year, Gore started every game and, including the playoffs, ended with more carries, 324, than he had in any previous year. Asked if he wanted the same kind of workload this year, he said, “I’m here. I’m still here. So why not?”