Frank Gore always believes he’s ‘The Man,’ no matter who is in the backfield with him. That mentality has served him well for 15 NFL seasons, and will again in Year 16.
The 37-year-old Gore will be the Jets’ leading back Sunday against the 49ers, and presumably for the time being. Le’Veon Bell was put on IR this week with a hamstring injury and will miss at least three games.
"That’s a big loss with Le’Veon not playing," Gore said. "Even when Le’Veon was here, I prepared like I was ‘The Man.’
"When you’re playing a game that you love you always want to be ‘The Man,’ be a guy who’s on the field the most. As you get up in age and you come to different teams, when coaches tell you the situations you got to go with it. Even though I knew the situation coming in, no one’s going to stop me from preparing like I was the guy."
Minus Bell, the Jets' running back group includes, rookie La’Mical Perine, who could make his NFL debut Sunday, Josh Adams, and newly signed Kalen Ballage.
Adam Gase coached Gore in Miami and brought him in because he can improve a locker room and an offense. Gore will have a larger role than originally expected heading into this game against his former team. But Gase doesn’t doubt Gore wants it and can handle it.
"I’ll try to be smart as far as managing his carries and his reps, trying to get those other guys involved," Gase said. "Then at the same time, Frank likes to get in a rhythm, so he won’t like standing over there too long."
Gase recalled a game against Chicago two years ago and said, "[Gore] looked like he lost about 15 pounds." That was a turn-back-the clock performance by Gore. He ran for 101 yards on 15 carries.
Gore became the second-oldest player to have a 100-yard rushing game last year with the Bills, at 36 years and 138 days old. The late MacArthur Lane holds the mark. He did it in 1978 for Kansas City, at the age of 36 years and 199 days old.
No one would be surprised if Gore, the third-leading rusher in NFL history, owns that distinction by the time Bell returns.
"Frank’s unbelievable," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "The success of his career doesn’t surprise me at all. The longevity does. It’s very hard for a running back to do that, especially the way Frank plays.
"I think Frank’s one of the best running backs to play this game. I think he’s always been extremely underrated. I’m glad he’s getting some of the needed attention that’s past due. Frank’s the man. He’s a true football player and as good as it gets just all around at being a football player."
Gore started his NFL career with the 49ers in 2005, and is their all-time leading rusher with 11,073 yards. This is only his second time facing his old team. But Gore said his only motivation is rebounding from last Sunday’s loss at Buffalo.
"I want to win," Gore said. "I want us to look a lot better than last week as an offense as a team. I just want to get a win."