The NFL’s active career rushing leader may still be a starter at age 35. Frank Gore is listed as sharing the No. 1 running back spot with incumbent Kenyan Drake on the first depth chart of training camp for the Miami Dolphins.
Gore signed with his hometown team in March and was widely expected to fill the role of veteran backup. He’s awfully experienced for a feature back, with 13 seasons and 196 games of mileage.
But that mileage translates into lots of yardage — 14,026 yards, to be exact, which ranks behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin.
And 10 practices into camp, Gore shows no sign he has lost a step.
“I’m not surprised,” coach Adam Gase said Monday. “He’s just been proving everybody wrong for so many years. You just never doubt that guy.”
Gase, Gore and Drake all described as no big deal the depth chart, especially one posted leading up to the first exhibition game. But Gore has enjoyed showing in practice he can still play.
“I come out here and compete every day,” he said. “Not just with Drake, but with every guy at my position. I think we all push and help each other. With me, whatever my coaches want me to do this year, I’m going to do it.”
Drake could yet prove difficult to dislodge from the No. 1 job. He ranked sixth in the NFL last year with an average of 4.8 yards per carry, topping 100 yards in consecutive games after he became the starter in Week 13.
“I don’t think anybody really cares about where they are on the depth chart before preseason even starts,” Drake said. “We’ve got to go out there and earn our spots.”
Gore said Drake is worthy friendly competition.
“Kenyan is a very talented guy,” Gore said. He’s smart; he can do everything on the field. I think that me and him can really help this team be successful this year.”
That would be a change. The Dolphins went 6-10 last season, when they ranked 28th in both points and rushing.
They expect to have a more potent offense this year with an upgraded line, the return of Ryan Tannehill and their new running back, who’s not new to the NFL at all.
Gore has started every game since 2012. Last year he averaged a career-worst 3.7 yards per carry for the Indianapolis Colts, but they provided little room to run, and he did reach the 100-yard mark twice in the season’s final month.
He was thrilled at the chance to return to South Florida, where he was born and raised and starred for the Miami Hurricanes. The homecoming makes even Thursday’s mostly meaningless game against Tampa Bay special to Gore, because he’s playing for Miami again.
“Pop Warner, high school, college and now the NFL,” he said. “I want to do some great things for my city and for my team. I want to show guys that when they get up in age, if you love the game and you go out and work hard, it shouldn’t matter what age you are. That’s what my goal is this year.”