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The two-time Pro Bowl running back ended his four-day holdout Monday and was back on the field a day later as the 49ers conducted their second padded practice of camp.
He was welcomed back by a new coaching staff and several players who have been anticipating his arrival.
“I almost hugged him and gave him a kiss, but I tried to play it cool,” wide receiver Josh Morgan told the AP. “It was really exciting to see him.”
Gore, who missed San Francisco’s final five games last season with a fractured hip, is in the final year of his contract with the 49ers that will pay him $2.9 million this season with a $2 million roster bonus. He is seeking a contract extension.
Gore has led the 49ers in rushing every year since being drafted in 2005, including a team-record four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2006-2009. Gore was on his way to extending that string last year before his injury. He finished the season with 853 yards rushing and 46 receptions for 452 yards. Gore needs 931 yards rushing to become the leading rusher in franchise history.
And what about this year?
The hip is fully healed and it sounds like new head coach Jim Harbaugh has big plans for Gore, which has the veteran halfback very excited (and perhaps even explains his desire for more money).
Asked recently about his initial impression of Harbaugh and how he might benefit from the coaching change, Gore told SI.com, "Talking to him, you can tell that he's a very smart man. He told me that before I left to make sure that I'm in great shape after the lockout because he'll be counting on me this year. He also told me the way he's going to use me and show the whole world that I'm the best back in the league."
How does Harbaugh plan to do that?
According to Gore, "It's not that my running style will change. He's just going to get me catching the ball more and getting me a lot of space. He'll be doing a lot of different things instead of the eight or nine men in the box. He's just trying to get the box loosened up for me. ..."
That certainly sounds appealing. Even more so if Gore can stay healthy.
As we suggested in this year's Fantasy Football Pro Forecast, when it comes to Gore the injury issues can't be overlooked. Without them, he'd be a top-3 back year after year. After all, we're talking about a player who has averaged 4.7 yards for his career, and averaged 53 catches over the past five-year stretch.
He's also only played one full, 16-game season in his six seasons as a pro. Last year, the hip injury sidelined him through the all-important Fantasy playoffs.
Still, assuming he's healthy -- and Harbaugh makes good on his word, Gore is more than capable of producing at a better-than-hoped level. That's especially true given his current ADP of 2.05 (in PPR; he's going at 2.04 in standard leagues).
So it's the age-old Fantasy conundrum: Risk versus reward. I would suggest that Gore -- at his current ADP -- is a reasonable enough risk. ...
Worth noting. ... While we'll need to see how things shake out over the next couple of weeks, don't go out of your way to land Anthony Dixon as a potential handcuff for Gore. In addition to the fact a slightly-bulked up Dixon could see time at fullback, general manager Trent Baalke recently told reporters that rookie Kendall Hunter can contribute in any game situation.
We call that a clue.
Despite being small of stature, Hunter runs with power as well as having the quickness that is required to set up defenders in the NFL. Again, as first noted in this year's Pro Forecast, if you are looking for the correct handcuff to go with Gore this season, aim for Hunter.
He will see more touches than Dixon should Gore go down though Dixon would probably get more red-zone touches.