Frank Gore returned to Santa Clara yesterday and attended his first practice of training camp today. It was coincidental planning that I ended up visiting the day of his return, but I'm glad I made it. He spoke to the press after practice and I've posted the transcript after the jump.
In observing Frank in practice, I'm pleased to report that he looked to be 100%. He was cutting back and forth, breaking some arm tackles and generally looking like the hip injury is completely behind him. Things may change when he takes a man-sized hit in preseason, but for now things are looking good.
What I really enjoyed watching was his interactions with his teammates. When the first team offense was on the field, Gore was chirping quite a bit whether it be a pat on the back or actually trying to provide some tips and reminders about a given play. Coach Harbaugh went into some specifics on it and described the excellent communication Gore brought to the field:
"Mainly tips and reminders coming out of the huddle. He's giving tips to the back, the quarterback, to receivers. He gets involved in pointing out and identifying the defense and giving protection reminders or sometimes he's giving dummy reminders. It's pretty neat, pretty cool, good communication. He exaggerates and I like that."
Apparently Gore came to the facility Monday and spent three or four hours with Coach Rathman. I'd imagine it involved discussing the playbook among other things. During Camp Alex media sessions, Alex Smith described Gore as one of the smartest football players he knows and it appears to be paying dividends now. Coach Harbaugh indicated the first team offense didn't skip a beat even though Gore had missed the first four practices. He had been studying his playbook and it showed.
It really is a relief to have Frank the Tank back on the field. He is the engine that makes the offense go and he definitely wants to be here. He's closing in on the 49ers career rushing mark and it couldn't happen to a better guy. He's going to be a key weapon in the Harbaugh/Roman offense and if the offense can get in gear, it could be a ton of fun to watch. And yes, Frank Gore's enthusiasm about being back on the field rubbed off on me.
RB Frank Gore
Press Conference - August 2, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
On how he feels:
"I feel great, I feel good. I feel good."
On what led to his decision to come back to training camp:
"I'm a football player. I missed being out here with my team, a new coaching staff, the new playbook I had to learn. The organization, by picking Coach Harbaugh and talking to him before the lockout was here, he had some good stuff and I told him I'm going to be 100 percent behind him and I just wanted to get back out here with my teammates."
On whether he has received positive feedback from the organization about his contract:
"I really, since I've been here, I've just really been talking to my teammates and happy to be back to football. I let my agent, [Frank Gore's agent] Drew [Rosenhaus], take care of that. I'm here to get better and try to get this organization to the right move and that's get to the playoffs."
On how his first day back was:
"I felt like a kid out there. I was happy. It was a blessing to come back from the injury, a lot of people doubted me that I wouldn't be back and I feel good. I feel great. I feel like a 22-year-old running back out there."
On whether he would like a new contract by the start of the season:
"If it happens, it happens. I'm just coming here to get better, learn the playbook and do the best I can for this organization."
On whether the reason he held out of training camp was because of his contract:
"When I met Drew after the season, knowing I was going into my last year and I wanted to be with the 49ers forever, for my whole career, we talked about it and I told him that's what I wanted to do. Things weren't going right so I sat down and talked to my agent and that's what it was. But, I'm happy to be back and I had a fun time, had a great practice, I feel good. I'm just taking it one day at a time and just keep moving forward."
On being less than 1,000 yards away from reaching the 49ers all-time rushing record and what it would feel like to reach that:
"It would be a blessing, especially because there were some great players here. I could be in the record books with Jerry Rice and other players. That's a blessing."
On whether it was his agent's advice to hold out of camp:
"We both talked. I don't want to just put it all on Drew because he works for me. We came to that agreement but I'm happy I'm back. I'm just going to try to get better every day and try and get the 49ers organization on a roll."
On what convinced him to come back:
"I missed the game. I missed being out here with my teammates, the coaching staff. Like I said, I talked to Coach Harbaugh before I left and he's got some great stuff for the offense. I think by me and him just talking and being here going on seven years, the six years I was here, I really feel that with him, this offense is going to really click."
On whether he sees his brief holdout as being unsuccessful:
"I wouldn't say that. Like I said, if the contract happens, if it comes, it comes. I'm just out here to work and get better and help my team get to the next level and that's the playoffs."
On whether he spoke with coach Harbaugh while he was in Miami:
"Yeah I did. He just told me he doesn't have anything to do with the office and he would like me to be here. And I'm here."
On what point of this offseason that he felt 100 percent healthy, after rehabbing from his hip injury last season:
"I would say by mid-summer. Doing all those running back drills with my trainer, Pete Bommarito, that's when I started feeling right doing my cuts and jump-cuts and stuff then I told myself I'll be ready."
On whether he weighs less than he typically has in the past:
"I'm right there, 214, 215, my fighting weight. I'm back and I'm ready to go."
On whether he talked with his teammates on the phone to pick up extra tips for the playbook:
"No. I'm a football player, I catch on real fast. My running backs coach Tom [Rathman] had me in the room for about three or four hours yesterday on our day off. I catch on fast because I love the game. Like I said, I'm ready to go, I feel good, I'm trying to go forward and get the organization in the right place and that's trying to the win the [NFC] West and get to the playoffs."
On what he likes about the new 49ers offense:
"We come to the line, we've got audibles, there's never one play ran. I think with this offense we can win every time we're at the line. What surprised me today was our quarterback [QB Colin Kaepernick]. To see a rookie, he looked real good, he was making great throws, just in the huddle and making great reads. I told him he's doing a great job. I know [QB] Alex [Smith] is going to be back. I'm just happy to be back."
On his reaction to hearing Smith and LB Patrick Willis saying earlier that having him back was key to the locker room, key to the offense and key to winning:
"I feel great. I think if Alex and Pat are saying that it's got to be true. I saw today when I came back, I watched film to see what the running backs were doing, see what the line was doing and I feel that when I come and I'm in the huddle and I'm talking and tapping my boys on the butt and getting the boys ready to go I think we move forward. And today I think we had a great practice and I felt good out there. Like I said, I'm happy to be back and I want to tell my fans, I'm sorry about the little holdup but I'm back and I'm ready to go to work."