Three well-known former 49ers have reasons to be grateful on a day in which each will take the field on Thanksgiving Day.
Instead of being subjected to a 1-9 season and franchise-tying nine-game losing streak as members of the 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are in the playoff hunt and playing key roles with their respective teams.
WR Anquan Boldin, Detroit
Boldin was the 49ers’ leading receiver in each of his three seasons with the 49ers. He was announced as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award during Super Bowl week in San Francisco.
But the 49ers did not have a place for him on their roster, as they committed themselves to transitioning to a younger group of wide receivers.
Bruce Ellington and Eric Rogers, a pickup from the Canadian Football League, both sustained season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season. DeAndre Smelter has never snapped back from a knee injury that ended his final college season at Georgia Tech before general manager Trent Baalke selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Smelter is currently on the 49ers’ practice squad.
“He’s been OK, but he hasn’t played better than the guys that are on the active roster right now,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Smelter. “So that has not been a discussion about bringing him up.”
Meanwhile, Boldin ranks third on the Lions with 41 receptions for 323 yards and five touchdowns. Boldin’s 7.9-yard per reception is the lowest of his career. A year ago, his 11.4 average with the 49ers was the lowest since his second season in the league.
Boldin, 36, is obviously slowing down, but he is still producing more than any receiver on the 49ers. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley has 40 catches for 424 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions (6-4) play the Minnesota Vikings in the early game on Thanksgiving Day.
TE Vernon Davis, Washington
Davis has experienced a bit of a resurgence with his best season since 2013, when he had 850 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns for the 49ers.
When Davis fell, he fell hard. But, now, he is making some contributions for Washington, which enters Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with a 6-3-1 record.
The 49ers dealt him to the Denver Broncos at the trade deadline last year. Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows when he signed Davis as a free agent in the offseason. But Davis, 32, has given Washington about what they expected at this stage of his career. Davis has 26 catches for 382 yards and two touchdowns.
Vance McDonald is the 49ers’ top tight end. He has 18 catches for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
RB Frank Gore, Indianapolis
The 49ers offered Gore, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, only a one-year contract when he became a free agent after the 2014 season. The 49ers determined it was time for Carlos Hyde to become the featured back.
The Colts, meanwhile, valued Gore with a three-year, $12 million contract. Gore has the longest current consecutive-games played streak of any NFL running back at 90 games, entering the Colts’ Thanksgiving night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gore, 33, has remained healthier and more productive than Hyde. Gore has 642 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 163 carries this season.
He also has 28 catches for 201 yards and a career-tying three touchdown receptions and is on pace for his best season as a receiver since 2010.
Gore ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 12,682 yards. He is just 57 yards behind Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett for No. 8 on the list.
Meanwhile, Hyde has 529 yards rushing and six TDs on 141 carries. He has 16 catches for 90 yards.
The Colts (5-5) enter Thanksgiving one game behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South.