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For Gore, 'Pistol' was hardly love at first sight

The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- Based on his initial reaction when he first saw the 'Pistol' offense, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore's appreciation for the offense is surprising himself.

"I didn't like it at first," Gore said. "But it's working for us, so if it gets us to the Super Bowl, I'm with it."

After four years at the University of Miami and seven years in the NFL, Gore was accustomed to running out of pro-style sets. Tight ends, fullbacks, pulling guards. That was the norm. That's how football was meant to be played.

The Pistol? Not so much.

"I just felt like that's not real football," Gore said.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman had a markedly different first impression: "I loved the downhill element of it and the neutrality of it, with the back in the home position. I loved the concept, a couple different things about it and I just thought it was a great idea."

Gore could have been skeptical when coach Jim Harbaugh and Roman installed the formation as one of the key components to the 49ers' offense this year, but that wouldn't be Gore's style.

"It was definitely an adjustment for him, but again, he's one that will adapt quickly," Roman said. "I thought he had some just incredible runs in our last game on those types of plays. It's of no surprise to us here."

The biggest challenge for Gore, who racked up the second-highest rushing total of his career (1,214 yards) during the regular season, was learning to be patient. He has always been a patient runner, waiting for blockers and for holes to open, but running read-option plays out of the Pistol is a different kind of patience.

"I had to adjust because I don't know if I'm going to get the ball or not," he said. "I just got to be patient, stay on my course. And if I got it, I got to adjust to what I see."

Gore has always impressed 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh with his football IQ.

"It's top shelf. Not to categorize it, but I know I've learned a lot from Frank as well as the other running backs on our team," Harbaugh said. "He sees it, he sees the big picture, he sees the whole picture. He sees it slowed down and he's got a very quick mind. He's able to make quick minded decisions."

Gore's ability to adapt further cements his reputation as a heady player.

"I always tell Frank, 'Man, when you're done playing, come find me or I'll find you,' because he is a guy that I love working with as a player and I'm sure I would love working with as a coach," Roman said.

Gore wasn't ready to commit to a post playing-days career just yet, but he didn't shoot it down, either.

"I'll see. I love being around football," Gore said. "So if Coach Roman ever gets a head job and he wants to hire me, I'll be ready."

--Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., the former 49ers owner who is one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this season, will join Charles Haley and Bryant Young as honorary game captains during the coin toss for Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Atlanta Falcons.

INJURY IMPACT:

-- CB Tarell Brown (shoulder) was limited in practice Thursday.

-- FB Bruce Miller (shoulder) was limited in practice Thursday.

-- LB Aldon Smith (shoulder) was limited in practice Thursday.

-- G Alex Boone (knee) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- TE Garrett Celek (foot) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- CB Chris Culliver (knee) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- S Dashon Goldson (shin) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- LB Tavares Gooden (knee) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- RB Frank Gore (knee) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- LB Clark Haggans (shoulder) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- G Mike Iupati (shoulder) was a full participant in practice Thursday.

-- DT Justin Smith (elbow, triceps) was a full participant in practice Thursday.
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