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49ers' Gore kept hope through all the adversity

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49ers' Gore kept hope through all the adversity

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Ray Rice has known nothing but winning since he came into the NFL.

For Frank Gore, it took a while.

Two running backs with contrasting styles and story lines will be on display at this Super Bowl, but they have one thing in common - plenty of respect for each other.

``To battle through what he's been through? He's a warrior,'' Rice said Monday evening, shortly after the Baltimore Ravens arrived in the Big Easy. ``Hats off to my man Frank.''

Gore, the leading rusher for the San Francisco 49ers, also was generous with the praise.

``He does it all. I love to watch him,'' Gore said of his Ravens counterpart. ``When I saw him in college, I knew he was going to be a pretty good back in the league.''

They both are.

But, boy, they sure took different paths to get here.

The 29-year-old Gore has endured plenty of losses, personal heartache (losing his mother to kidney failure) and a startling string of injuries that might've broken a lesser man. He tore up both knees in college at the University of Miami, prompting him to wonder if ``football wasn't for me.'' Shaking off the doubts, he was drafted by the 49ers, but needed major surgery on both shoulders after his rookie campaign. Later, he lost part of another season to a hip injury.

Even harder to take, Gore played on a series of bad teams. Really bad teams. His first six years in the league, the 49ers failed to post a winning record - which was especially hard for him to take, considering he had known nothing but winning with the Hurricanes.

``It was tough, real tough,'' Gore said. ``I would see some guys - who are not here anymore - after we lost, and they would just be like, `Whatever.' I was not used to that. If we lost one game at Miami, it was like our season was over.''

One of his teammates, fullback Bruce Miller, has noticed the determination in Gore's eyes as the team prepares to face the Baltimore Ravens in the title game Sunday.

``It means a lot to him,'' Miller said. ``In meetings and at practice, you can see how intense and focused he is. He's worked hard for it.''

For Rice, the road has been much smoother.

Since he was drafted in 2008 out of Rutgers, the Ravens have made the playoffs every season, including three trips to the ACC championship game. This season, they got over that hump with a major upset at New England.

``I've been blessed and fortunate,'' Rice said.

Rice is a slasher of a back, darting through the smallest of openings to break off big gains. He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards four years in a row and is just as valuable in the passing game, recording more than 60 receptions each of those seasons, as well.

In a November game at San Diego, he provided one of the most memorable plays of 2012. With the Ravens down by three and facing fourth-and-29, he hauled in a pass just past the line of scrimmage, swerved away from three defenders, broke a tackle that would have clinched the victory for the Chargers and lunged just beyond the first-down stripe for a 30-yard gain.

The Ravens kicked a tying field goal, then won the game in overtime.

Gore is a power back, someone who can churn out the tough yards between the tackles. That style has served him well; he's run for more than 1,000 yards six of the last seven seasons and become San Francisco's career leader in rushing touchdowns.

``We always credit Frank with the tough yards,'' Miller said. ``He doesn't get the easy runs. It's up the middle, three or four yards a carry. But he just continues to move the chains. That's why we're here.''

Despite their lofty numbers, both running backs are a bit overlooked heading into the title game.

In San Francisco, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the pistol offense are all the rage. For Baltimore, much of the attention is focused on retiring linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco, who has finally escaped his playoff demons.

``When you look at the criticism that Flacco has been through, and you see what a young quarterback like Kaepernick is doing, I would make them the headlines, too,'' Rice said. ``I'm just being honest.''

But, chances are, Rice and Gore will have a significant impact on the outcome Sunday, especially since their rookie backups - LaMichael James in San Francisco, Bernard Pierce in Baltimore - emerged as major threats late in the season and playoffs, taking some of the load off the two starters.

``It keeps me fresh,'' Gore said. ``Early in my career, I probably wouldn't have liked it. Now, it gets me ready for the fourth quarter. When the defense is wearing down, that's when I get going.''

All the warm and fuzzy feelings will be put on hold in the Super Bowl.

But no matter who's hoisting the trophy at the end of the game, Gore and Rice will remain fans of each other.

``We don't have to hit each other,'' Rice quipped. ``I'd like to win on Sunday. I don't want to see him do good on our defense. But any other time I watch Frank Gore do well, I'm happy for him.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry 1963

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: DeCosta looking at 2019 NFL Draft as opportunity to address remaining needs

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: DeCosta looking at 2019 NFL Draft as opportunity to address remaining needs

Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news as general managers and head coaches gather in Phoenix, Az for the NFL Annual League Meeting. 

Player Notes: 

- General manager Eric DeCosta likes the way the Ravens' secondary is looking with Jimmy Smith, and said it would be "foolish" to turn a strength on the team into a weakness by potentially parting ways with the cornerback.

“It’s a very fluid process," DeCosta said via the Ravens' website. "We’re in good shape right now salary-cap wise. Jimmy’s a good player. We’ve got a really, really good secondary and it’s a passing league. I think that’s important.”

Smith carries a $15.85 million salary cap hit in 2019.

- The Ravens are looking at the 2019 NFL Draft as an opportunity to address their needs at wide receiver and pass rusher, according to comments made by DeCosta Monday. Free agency brought the departures of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith leaving huge holes to fill in both areas. 

- The door hasn't been shut on re-signing free agent defensive end Brent Urban. In 2018, Urban appeared in all 16 regular season games for the Ravens posting 27 combined tackles and two passes defensed. 

- QB Robert Griffin III is being sued by his former agent Ben Dogra for unpaid marketing and endorsement fees, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Dogra claims RGIII owes him over $650,000 as part of an agreement for 15% share of marketing and endorsement deals negotiated while he was Griffin's agent. The QB fired Dogra back in 2018. 

- One of the many potential rule changes being discussed this week at the Annual League Meeting is expanding replays during a game. The potential rule change has come front and center after the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, and it's something head coach John Harbaugh is in favor of. 

“If we can put somebody up there in the box that’s got a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, let’s do that," Harbaugh said back in January. "Because at the end of the game, it’s about the credibility of the sport.”

Click here to see a few of the potential changes being discussed. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

MORE RAVENS NEWS: 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

We are here to help you get your workweek started with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player Notes: 

Running back Mark Ingram is bringing two Pro Bowls, 1,321 rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns to the Ravens, but there's a lot about him you may not know. Did you know that his father, Mark Ingram Sr., was drafted at No. 28 overall just like his son? Probably not. Here's five things to know about Ingram via the Ravens' website. 

Safety Earl Thomas isn't just talented on the field, but off the field as well. Thomas can play piano, drums, saxophone and the organ. During his freshman year of high school, Thomas would change out of his football uniform at halftime into his band uniform to perform and then back again. Here's five things to know about Thomas via the Ravens' website

Former Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is retiring from the game. The 30-year-old made the announcement at his wife's baby shower over the weekend. Selected 19th overall by the Eagles in the 2009 NFL Draft, Maclin played for the Eagles, Chiefs and the Ravens.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams is ready to be a defensive leader for the Ravens in 2019. With the departures of Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency, Williams is ready to be "that man" for the NFL's No.1 defense. 

Williams has yet to play a full season for the Ravens after being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2018, the linebacker saw action in only sevens games due to hamstring and ankle injuries. 

In AFC news, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the league Sunday via Instagram. The 29-year-old finishes his career with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards, 79 touchdowns and three Super Bowl championship. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

MORE RAVENS NEWS: