Frank Gore makes #NFLRank at No. 42


SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- This season could well be Frank Gore's swan song with the San Francisco 49ers.

Gore has had what some view as a Hall of Fame career; but the reasons he may be near the end in San Francisco are threefold. He turned 31 in May, he is entering the final year of his contract, and Gore's heir apparent, second-round pick Carlos Hyde, has looked fantastic in training camp and in the preseason.

If this is it for Gore, who is 33 yards from breaking the 10,000-yard career rushing mark, he has not gotten the memo. Gore is not about to concede playing time in San Francisco.

As he reported for his 10th NFL training camp, Gore was asked whether he was concerned about the presence of Hyde and Marcus Lattimore, a fourth-round pick last year. Gore just laughed and reminded anyone within earshot that he is a product of the University of Miami. Competition doesn’t scare him.

ESPN’s panelists who selected the NFL’s top 100 offensive players agree with Gore. He is ranked No. 42 on the list. That’s high praise for an over-30 running back. The respect and expectations for Gore are not without merit. He hasn't showed signs of slowing down and continues to be a major cog in the 49ers’ run-heavy offense. He had 1,128 yards on 276 carries (the third-highest total in his career) last season.

Even with the youngsters in camp, Gore has made his presence known. Fullback Bruce Miller said Gore looked like he was in midseason form the first week of camp. Fellow 30-something receiver Anquan Boldin said it is obvious Gore is fueled by talk of his pending demise and looks determined to star again.

The 49ers' coaches sense it, too.

“Frank loves the game of football, and he loves being a part of a team, loves overcoming,” San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It’s just been the story of his career, so why would it be any different now?"

Added 49ers general manager Trent Baalke: “Father Time is having a hard time catching up to him.”

The real question about Gore: Will he be ranked higher than No. 42 on next year’s ESPN list?