"If we could get two guys in the same season – 1,000-1,000 – that's one of my goals," Rathman said.
Hearst and Barlow appear primed to make it happen.
Hearst, of course, knows nothing else but 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the 49ers. In the three seasons he has played for the team, he has topped the magic barrier each time, including a team-record 1,570 yards in 1998. He missed the 1999 and 2000 seasons with a career-threatening ankle injury.
Even with Hearst producing 1,206 yards during his miraculous comeback season last year, there still was enough room in the offense for Barlow to rush for 512 yards during his impressive rookie debut. Hearst had almost exactly twice as many carries as Barlow – 252 to 125 – so if those carries are distributed a bit more evenly this season….
Actually, that might not even matter, since Hearst and Barlow both could see a significant increase in playing time this season.
They were in the same backfield only a few plays last season, but the Niners have experimented more frequently this spring – and appear to be making it part of their gameplan this summer – with putting Hearst and Barlow regularly in the same backfield.
"It's been part of our offense over time," said Rathman, the star fullback on two of the Niners' Super Bowl championship teams. "They were using that personnel when I was playing back in '86. It's just getting two better athletes out on the football field. Two halfbacks that are probably a little bit more skilled than a fullback to try to create mismatches on defense. And it would get Kevan more reps with Garrison and just get everybody involved in the offense."
Barlow, for one, is anxious to take part in the two-headed tag team.
"I'm looking forward to that," he said. We're jelling. We're getting a feel for being out there together. I mean, that's a positive thing. Can't nobody stop that. If nobody can stop us, let's do it. If we're producing out there with both of us out there, why change it?"
Barlow and Hearst each will try to produce 1,000 reasons not to change it.