FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Frank Gore hated being held out of the Jets’ first practice of training camp on Friday. A hamstring injury kept the venerable veteran on the sideline watching, reluctantly.
“It was tough,” Gore said after practice Monday. “You always want to start the first day with your team. Since I’m the new guy, I want to let them know that just because I’m older I want to be out there with them and do everything they do and let them know I’m all in.”
No one ever questions that about Gore, who is entering his 16th NFL season. Gore, 37, has been a workhorse as a running back and he still is a workout fiend. That’s what has helped him remain in the league as long as he has, and he showed some of that Monday in the Jets’ first practice in pads.
Gore was very involved in the offense, backing up Le’Veon Bell in the team drills. When Gore got the ball, he ran hard with the enthusiasm and exuberance of a young player.
“He wants to be on the field,” coach Adam Gase said. “He wants to get reps. He wants to contribute. He wants to go out there and compete against those guys. You can see why the guy’s still playing. He runs out like it’s the first time he’s practicing in the NFL. You can tell that’s why he still plays. He still loves it. He’s excited about it. He’s nervous about it.
"It’s pretty cool to see a guy that’s a future Hall of Famer that still gets like that.”
Gore, the NFL’s third-leading rusher all-time with 15,347 yards, played for Gase in Miami. That relationship helped bring Gore to the Jets. He liked playing for Gase, and Gase respects everything about Gore, and believes his passion and desire and love for the game will wear off on his teammates.
First-year Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman worked out with Gore in Florida and speaks about him with reverence.
“Man, Frank is like no other,” Perriman said. “I’ve had the pleasure to see him work plenty of offseasons, he grinds so hard. He works like he’s young, like he never really accomplished nothing. He still got that hunger, that drive and you can see it every time you work with him. You got to respect that.”
Gore said that work ethic came from being doubted when he was in college and suffered two different ACL injuries at the University of Miami. He said he was “written off” early in his career, and that critics said he would be out of the NFL in three years. He’s still going strong.
“Just the love of the game and also the stuff I’ve been through to get to this point in the league,” Gore said. “God blessed me, gave me the opportunity to do something I love. When I got the opportunity, I took advantage of it. I tell Le’Veon when you touch the age of 28 they kind of write you off. My mindset got stronger. Every time I get on the field it’s to show people it don’t matter what age you are, when you love the game, respect the game, go hard in the offseason and make every day like it’s your last you can do it.”
Gore, who started eight games for Buffalo last year and finished with 599 rushing yards, believes he could have run for 1,000 yards. But as the season wore on the Bills made rookie Devin Singletary their lead back. Gore understood, and he understands his role here.
Bell is “the lead dog,” but Gore is still looking forward to playing and contributing. Hearing he’s too old just pushes him harder. He said he spends six weeks in the summer just training like a boxer does before a fight to make sure he’s ready for the season.
“It motivates me in the offseason,” he said. “I just keep that in my mind and every day on the field I try to work and show these guys that I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I’ve also had success and I’m still enjoying it.”
NFL all-time leading rushers
1. Emmitt Smith 18,355
2. Walter Payton 16,726
3. Frank Gore 15,347*
4. Barry Sanders 15,269
5. Adrian Peterson 14,216*
6. Curtis Martin 14,101
7. LaDainian Tomlinson 13,684
8. Jerome Bettis 13,662
9. Eric Dickerson 13,259
10. Tony Dorsett 12,739