SANTA CLARA — Frank Gore is moving through concussion protocol and “on pace to play” in Saturday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, head coach Jim Harbaugh said during his Thursday press conference.
Gore suffered a concussion in the first half of last Sunday’s loss in Seattle. The injury was serious enough to keep him off the field for the remainder of the game, and keep him out of practice until Thursday where he was a limited participant.
All signs point to the 10-year veteran suiting up in what could be his penultimate game as a 49er.
Gore hasn’t been nearly as effective this season, averaging 3.9 yards per-carry, the lowest of his career. He’s on pace to fall short of 1,000 yards rushing for the first time since the pre-Harbaugh era, but is also likely to finish with the lowest carry total since his rookie season.
Greg Roman acknowledged to reporters that the Niner’s haven’t featured Gore as much as they’d hoped this season, citing situational factors:
“(His workload has been…) a little light. But, there are several games where you would like to be handing it off at the end of the game with numbing repetition. He’s really good in those situations. We really haven’t had them lately. But a little light in that regard, opportunities just not there.”
Roman also took the opportunity to heap praise on the leading rusher in franchise history, especially during what has become an increasingly frustrating 2014 season:
“Frank Gore, since the day I got here, has been the heart and soul really. This year when the going gets tough, things aren’t going the way you like, we’re not producing to the level we expect or are used to or want to or working for. Who’s blinking? Who’s going to change? Not Frank Gore. To wrap it up in a nice tidy box, he is a great leader and somebody that, man he’s fun to coach, fun to coach.”
Coming back from injuries is nothing new for Gore. It fact, it was shortly after Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco that he realized the extent of Gore’s competitive drive, when the running back torched a Philadelphia defense following a serious ankle injury:
“He’s always motivated to play. Boy, he’s the most or as motivated as any player I’ve ever been around to play the game. I think back to 2011 when he had the ankle injury and we were playing against the Eagles. He really wasn’t able to walk on it all week and then went out and rushed for over a hundred yards. It’s special.”
What’s not so special is San Francisco depth at running back, or lack there of. Carlos Hyde suffered an ankle injury in Seattle and has not practiced all week. He told CSN’s Mindi Bach he will be out Saturday “barring a miracle.”
Behind Gore will be Alfonso Smith, who ran for six yards on four attempts last week, and has averaged 3.1 yards per carry in 52 attempts over a four year career. Recent addition Phillip Tanner will act as the third string running back, and will be in uniform according to Harbaugh.
RB Kendall Hunter has been on the injured reserve since suffering a torn ACL in July.