Frank Gore

Gore believes 49ers going in the right direction: 'That's what I bleed'

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USATI

Gore believes 49ers going in the right direction: 'That's what I bleed'

The 49ers’ all-time leading rusher is now in his third season with the Indianapolis Colts.

But running back Frank Gore has never left the 49ers completely behind. On Sunday nights last season, Gore would often call then-running backs coach Tom Rathman to rant about his former team while the 49ers were in the midst of a two-win season.

On Wednesday, Gore demonstrated his continued passion for the 49ers during a conference call with Bay Area reporters. After answering questions for more than 10 minutes, Gore had his own question:

What do y’all think about the 49ers?

Then, Gore proceeded to give his opinion of where the 49ers are heading after the firings of one-and-done head coaches Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, as well as the removal of general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers, under coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, are 0-4 as they enter Week 5 with a game against Gore and the Colts on Sunday. Gore said he sees reason for optimism.

“I think they’re going in the right direction,” Gore said. “They really play tough, man. I like their coaching staff. I like what he’s doing on offense. And that defense, they play very hard, and they’re playing good ball.

“The safety. . . (No.) 29 (Jaquiski Tartt), I see, he’s around the ball a lot. E-Reid (Eric Reid) was playing good ball before he got hurt. He was looking like his first year when he played with us.

“I like their D-line. I think they’re going to be all right. I think (49ers CEO) Jed (York) did a great job of picking the guys he picked to run the team. I think they’re going to be OK.

“In the NFC West, you know how it is. It goes in cycles. I don’t think Seattle is how they used to be. . . Arizona . . . The Rams got a lot better. And San Fran, and that young team, I think they got a bunch of good pieces. I think (quarterback Brian) Hoyer is playing good ball, at times. But I think once they get all that situation, I think, man, they’re going to be back where we were, making a run for the NFC West.”

When told that Gore sounded like a fan, he did not disagree. He said he wishes success for his former team.

“I’d been there 10 years,” Gore said. “That’s what I bleed. I was bitter that first year, but that’s the business. That’s the business. I did right for that organization. I played hard. What can they say but great things about me? I want to see them do great.”

Gore said the 49ers’ narrow loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII still motivates him. Gore rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the Super Bowl. After his 33-yard run gave the 49ers a first-and-goal from the Baltimore 7, Gore never touched the ball again.

“It was real close. I think we were 4 or 5 yards away,” Gore said. “Because of what we had going on as one of the top teams in the league, you feel you’d go back. It never happened.”

Left tackle Joe Staley and linebacker NaVorro Bowman are the only starters off that Super Bowl team that remain with the 49ers. Center Daniel Kilgore and tight end Garrett Celek were backups.

Frank Gore: 'Still working my behind off and still loving it' at age 34

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AP

Frank Gore: 'Still working my behind off and still loving it' at age 34

Running back Frank Gore entered the 2005 NFL Draft with enough question marks to be considered a "reach" when the 49ers selected him with the first pick in the third round.

Physically, Gore had already sustained two ACL tears during his college career at Miami. And NFL doctors had a difficult time signing off on another part of his anatomy, too.

“I took a chance,” former 49ers personnel chief Scot McCloughan said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “And the majority of the time when you take that chance, you get burned on it because of the medical.

“It’s not just the knees. It was his shoulders, too. I had to almost talk the doctors into passing him. I was like, ‘Come on, guys, work with me here.’ Because I liked him so much as a football player.”

Gore enters Sunday’s game against his former team just three yards behind Eric Dickerson for No. 7 on the NFL’s all-time rushing yardage list.

“I’ve been blessed,” Gore said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.

“When you look back at my career, coming from college, when I got drafted there how many people, even with me getting picked in third round, were calling it a reach? And now I’m still playing and having a little success at this age. I feel real blessed. I’m still working my behind off and still loving it.”

And how is this for durability? Gore, 34, has started 96 consecutive games – the longest active streak among NFL running backs. Next on the list is Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman, who has 25 consecutive starts.

“He’s still rolling,” McCloughan said.

After 10 seasons with the 49ers, Gore’s time came to an end after his 1,106-yard season in 2014. With Jim Harbaugh no longer with the organization, general manager Trent Baalke offered Gore a one-year contract in 2015 as the organization prepared for Carlos Hyde to take over as the featured running back.

Gore admits he was bitter for a year after signing a three-year deal with Indianapolis. But, now, with the passage of time, Gore said he understands the 49ers' rationale.

“They had a young guy,” Gore said. “Trent Baalke drafted him, and that’s who he wanted to play. They wanted to go in a new direction. What could I do?

“I just know when I left I left on good terms. I played great ball for the York family and my fans out there. I left everything on the field.”

Gore is now earning plenty of admirers in Indianapolis, just as he did for a decade with the 49ers.

“I think a bunch of people told him for a long, long time that he can’t and he won’t, and he’s been out to prove everybody wrong,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

“He’s one of our top dudes. Just a great, great player, a better person and a great teammate.”

Gore leads the Colts with 191 yards and two touchdowns on 61 carries through four games this season. Although he is averaging just 3.1 yards per rushing attempt, his average is still best among Indianapolis’ running backs.

From the first time McCloughan saw Gore as a true freshman at Miami, he knew there was something special. Although Gore was behind Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee on the depth chart, McCloughan observed Gore’s toughness, strong lower body and ability to keep his pads low.

McCloughan looked past a low Wonderlic score. He knew a learning disability meant that Gore would not test well. But he also knew no written test could properly convey that Gore was a football savant.

“His intelligence, his instincts for the game are lights out,” McCloughan said. “I’ve been around a lot of really good football players. With him, it’s amazing how he picks stuff up so quickly.

“I was like, ‘He’s smarter than Alex (Smith),’ and Alex had a big-time test score. And Alex, of course, is very intelligent, but he (Gore) knew the game, big-time. It was awesome.”

McCloughan had only briefly met Gore at the NFL Scouting Combine, but at that point Gore was off the 49ers’ draft board due to a non-passing medical grade.

The night before the 2005 draft, McCloughan said he was at then-coach Mike Nolan’s house. He received a call from an agent who told him Gore wished to speak with him.

“I can barely understand him, he’s talking so fast,” McCloughan said. “He’s nervous.”

Gore told McCloughan that he’s heard from other teams that he could be a first- or second-round draft pick.

“I said, ‘I’ll be honest with you, Frank,” McCloughan said. “I’m always honest with all the players and coaches. I said, ‘If you’re there – we had the first pick in the third round – I’m going to take you. I can’t take you prior to that because of the medical issues.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to last that long.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. If you do, I’ll take you.’

“Since that day, we’ve been best friends. He said, ‘I respect you and I trust you.’ You get Frank’s trust, -- a lot of players – you get their trust, you got them. You got them, and they’ll do everything for you, and I’ll do everything for them.”

All-time NFL leading rushers
1, Emmitt Smith 18,355 (1990-2004)
2, Walter Payton 16,726 (1975-1987)
3, Barry Sanders 15,269 (1989-1998)
4, Curtis Martin 14,101 (1995-2005)
5, LaDainian Tomlinson 13,684 (2001-2011)
6, Jerome Bettis 13,662 (1993-2005)
7, Eric Dickerson 13,259 (1983-1993)
8, Frank Gore 13,256 (2005-current)
9, Tony Dorsett 12,739 (1977-1988)
10, Jim Brown 12,312 (1957-1965)

49ers RB Hightower trades in Gore's old number for new jersey

49ers RB Hightower trades in Gore's old number for new jersey

New 49ers running back Tim Hightower was issued his first number with the 49ers.

And he seemed to disagree with the new equipment staff’s decision to outfit him with No. 21.

That jersey number was not assigned the past two seasons – since Frank Gore left the 49ers as a free agent to sign with the Indianapolis Colts. Gore is the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher and ranks eighth in NFL history.

Among the hashtags that Hightower posted on Instagram along with his locker name plate “Hightower 21,” were “#numbertheygaveme,” “#willbechanged” and #numbershouldberetired.”

It did not take long for Hightower to be issued a new number. Just hours later, Hightower was assigned No. 26, which was formerly worn by cornerback Tramaine Brock. The 49ers on Friday released Brock just hours after news of his arrest after a domestic violence incident.

Hightower has played six NFL seasons. He wore No. 34 with the Arizona Cardinals at the beginning of his career and the past two seasons with the New Orleans Saints. In 2011, he wore No. 25 with Washington.

Legendary 49ers running back Joe “The Jet” Perry’s No. 34 with the 49ers is retired, and Jimmie Ward is No. 25.