While plenty of attention has been paid to the contributions by the 49ers’ rookie class, the team’s graybeards deserve plaudits, too.
Frank Gore, 31, leads the team in rushing and is on pace to surpass 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season. Anquan Boldin, 34, leads the 49ers in receiving yards and is on track to finish with more than 1,100 yards for the second year in a row.
On defense, Justin Smith has the highest grade of any 49ers player at +17.9, according to scouting service Pro Football Focus, and he has been particularly stout on San Francisco’s sixth-ranked run defense.
“He’s doing great,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of Smith. “You can see it on Sunday. When they played the game this past week ... the two defensive tackles, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, they played both individually and as a tandem, I mean, it was one of the best of the year.”
It’s apparent the 49ers are doing everything they can to keep Smith – who at 35 is their oldest player after kicker Phil Dawson, 39 – as fresh as possible.
Smith hasn’t practiced on Wednesdays in recent seasons. Starting last week, he began sitting out Wednesday and Thursday sessions. While the rest of the team practices, Smith works out on his own.
“We’re doing what we think is in the best interest of the player and the team, which we always do,” Harbaugh said.
Smith’s number of plays also has dropped the last few seasons.
In 2012, for example, he played 586 snaps in the 49ers’ first 10 games. Last year, that fell to 524 and this season it’s 455.
Smith, who has another year on his contract, said in the offseason he wasn’t thinking ahead and was concentrating on this season.
Gore, whose contract expires in March, has made it clear he wants to continue playing beyond this season, even if it’s not with the 49ers.
“I still love the game and I feel great and I still want to play the game,” he said after the 49ers’ victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. “I feel like I’m still playing at a high level. … And If I won’t be back here, then I’ll show the other teams what I can do. … But I want to be back here.”
Gore is averaging 4.1 yards, below his 4.6-yard career average entering the season, and he is on pace to finish with 1,037 yards. That would be his lowest total since 2008, when he started 14 games.
Still, it isn’t as if his understudy is doing better in an offense that only recently recommitted to the run. Rookie Carlos Hyde, eight years younger than Gore, averages 3.8 yards a carry.
Boldin and Dawson are signed through the 2015 season.
Tackle out – Right tackle Anthony Davis, who suffered a concussion late in the win over the Giants, missed practice this week and will not play Sunday against Washington. Jonathan Martin will make his sixth start this season in Davis’ place.
It also means both teams could be without starting tackles who were drafted in the first round in 2010. Washington’s left tackle, Trent Williams, suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday and is listed as questionable. If he can’t play, rookie Morgan Moses will start and presumably square off against 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith for most of the game.
After starting every game the first four years of his career, shoulder surgery kept Davis out all of the offseason. Then a hamstring strain cost him the first three games. As soon as he came back, a defender crashed into the back of his leg, causing knee and ankle injuries that kept him out the next two games.
Et cetera – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman met Friday with Dr. James Andrews, who repaired his injured knee in February, to help determine when Bowman can return to practice.
▪ Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (arm) also has been ruled out of Sunday’s game, and Quinton Dial will make his second consecutive start at the position. Dorsey had surgery 31/2 months ago to repair a torn biceps suffered in training camp. He still is not back to full strength but said Friday he expects to play this season.
▪ Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring) and wide receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle) are listed as questionable but did not practice this week. That’s usually an indication they will not play Sunday.
▪ Linebacker Chris Borland was again voted Rookie of the Week, his second in a row. Borland also was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his 12-tackle, two-interception effort in the win over the Giants.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.