SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 30: Running back Kendall Hunter #32 of the San Francisco 49ers takes a pitch out during practice at the San Francisco 49ers training facility on July 30, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
First off, site decorum is back on and barring further developments, will remain on until the first preseason game. As reported by Matt Maiocco, and previously quasi-tipped by Rep the Bay, Frank Gore is expected to end his holdout and make an appearance at 49ers training camp today. Gore was boarding a plane for San Francisco yesterday afternoon and that was followed by Maiocco's tweet confirming his expected return. After a weekend that saw a lot of pessimism, it was nice to end on a high note.
Now that Frank will be back on the field, we have to start considering the impact it will have one the implementation of the Harbaugh/Roman offense. We know that Gore will be an integral part of the offense. The question now is how Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter will be worked into the offense, particularly with Gore now taking first team snaps.
To focus that in a bit more, does the return of Gore put the 49ers into a position to give Anthony Dixon a few more snaps at the fullback position? It's only been four practices, but had Gore continued his holdout Dixon and maybe eventually Hunter would have needed the first team snaps to fill in for an absent Gore.
Now, Gore's back and the 49ers have a bit more flexibility in how they utilize Dixon in particular in training camp. We're into August, which means less than two weeks until the first preseason game. We won't get a definite idea of the complete 2011 plans for Dixon and Hunter, but it will at least give us some clues.
To take things one step further, how does this impact the battle for playing time between Dixon and Hunter? Even though the team will sometimes practice with two running backs at once, one more running back in the mix means fewer carries for the backups. How should the 49ers handle this?