While a handful of running backs have lasted long enough to play a 16th season, none ventured into Year 17. Should a team sign Frank Gore, he would be in position to become the first.
The ageless back hinted earlier this year another season was on his radar. Now, it sounds like Gore definitely wants to come back. He does not, however, plan to sign until training camps begin.
“I talked to a couple teams, but my agent told me not to put any teams’ names out there. I kind of want to wait to training camp,” Gore said during an interview with KNBR’s Murph and Mac. “I want to wait to see if it’s the right situation for me. But if I don’t like the situation, I’ll say forget it and I’ll retire.”
The 38-year-old back, who is currently training in Miami, no longer wants to join a team without Super Bowl aspirations. Although he was with the Bills when they ventured to the playoffs in 2019, Gore has played in one playoff game since he left San Francisco. Last season, Gore gained 653 yards for the 2-14 Jets.
An injury during camp could open the door for Gore to help a contending team. He certainly is no longer in prime form, but the 16-year veteran has proven to be a dependable runner (three missed games in the past 10 years) and has amassed at least 575 rushing yards in every season of his career. The Jets used Gore a bit more frequently than the Bills did, but he carved out steady roles in Buffalo and Miami, allowing him to climb into the No. 3 spot on the all-time rushing list.
“I know that I can still play the game; I know I can help a team,” Gore said. “But it’s also got to be the right situation that I feel that I can be on a team that could go to the playoffs and get a chance to probably go to the Super Bowl.”
The 49ers, whom Gore indicated an interest in rejoining earlier this year, are already down Jeff Wilson for several months. But they drafted multiple backs, including Trey Sermon in Round 3. Gore said he remains interested in a San Francisco return but acknowledged the rookies may impede such a signing. A Dolphins reunion would make sense, even though Adam Gase is long gone from Miami, with the team not adding to its Myles Gaskin–Malcolm Brown depth chart until Round 7. The Seahawks also lost Carlos Hyde this offseason and have Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny coming off injury-limited seasons.
Multiple fullbacks (Tony Richardson, Lorenzo Neal) have played at age 38 in the modern NFL; Richardson made it to 39 in his 16th season (2010). Marcus Allen is the only pure running back to join Gore in playing a 16th season since the merger. At 16,000 rushing yards, Gore is 726 behind Walter Payton for second on the all-time list.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.