When it comes to the position of running back, the San Francisco 49ers are not willing to rule anything out.
The Niners backfield has been ground zero for a rash of bad injury luck through offseason workouts and the first two weeks of regular season play, as San Francisco’s top five rushing options have all suffered a setback of one kind or another — many of them serious.
So while head coach Kyle Shanahan has leaned toward younger replacements — signing Jacques Patrick away from the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad on Tuesday, September 22 and adding RB Chris Thompson to the Niners’ practice unit the following day — a reliable name from years past remains a viable option.
That name is Frank Gore.
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“I think I would never put anything past Frank,” Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. “I know if I probably give him a little heads-up and some notice, he’ll always be ready to where he could help a team.”
“I thought it was a little early for that,” the head coach continued, referencing the pursuit of Gore. “Our guys still have a chance of playing this week. So we looked at it as an opportunity with not having 53 on our roster to try to steal someone off someone else’s practice squad, which we did, and then try to add a practice squad guy, which we did with Chris.”
Niners’ All-Time Leading Rusher Could Surpass Walter Payton in SF
Drafted out of the University of Miami, the 38-year-old Gore played the first 10 seasons of his now 16-year career as a member of the 49ers.
One of the most durable running backs in the history of the NFL, Gore carried the ball nearly 2,500 times while wearing the red and gold. He is San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher, tallying 11,073 yards during his time in the Bay Area to complement 64 touchdowns.
Having amassed a total of 16,000 total rushing yards across his career — which included stops with the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills after departing San Francisco — Gore stands as the third leading rusher in NFL history.
He trails Chicago Bears great Walter Payton by only 726 yards. And while unlikely to surpass that total as part of a multi-pronged rushing attack in the 15 games remaining on the schedule, Gore would stand an outside chance of assuming the No. 2 spot on that list in 2021 as part of the Niners’ roster.
Were he to be signed, remain healthy and come back with San Francisco next season, Payton’s position on the NFL’s all-time rushing list would almost certainly belong to Gore.
Gore Could Still Help Niners Based on 2020 Performance
Despite 16 years of professional tread on his proverbial tires, Gore seemingly still has what it takes to make plays at the highest level.
He has proven highly reliable over the course of his career, appearing in double-digit games every season he has played in the NFL, starting the overwhelming majority of those contests. Gore put up 653 yards for the Jets in 2020 and found the end zone twice, according to Pro Football Reference. He also caught 16 passes.
Beyond that, Gore is a consummate professional and, by all accounts, a persistently positive locker room presence. The Niners are not only hampered by injury at the RB position, they are also defined by youth in the offensive backfield.
Elijah Mitchell, who assumed the starting role after Raheem Mostert was lost for the season to a knee injury, is a rookie. The third-string RB as of Week 2, Trey Sermon, is a rookie himself who happened to suffer a concussion on the first carry of his NFL career.
JaMycal Hasty, who will miss this weekend’s game against the Green Bay Packers with an ankle sprain, is a 25-year-old in his second season with San Francisco.