Notebook: Niners have the leverage with Gore

After negotiating lucrative contracts for running backs Willis McGahee and Thomas Jones after trades, agent Drew Rosenhaus might feel that the market has been set for Frank Gore. However, the 49ers are in a position in which they don't have to touch Gore's contract and they can still keep him around for the next three seasons. But the 49ers also want to take care of Gore, a 2005 third-round pick.

Gore set the 49ers record last season while leading the NFC with 1,695 yards rushing. Gore is entering the final season of the original three-year deal he signed as a rookie. He is scheduled to earn $435,000 this season, making him tied for the 36th-highest paid player on the team.

But if Rosenhaus is looking for a deal that will make Gore one of the highest-paid players in the game, he is not likely to get it.

"As someone we care about and want to treat him right, we'd like to (sign him to an extension)," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "But Frank also has to recognize that he is ours for that long, and compare yourself to the comparable guys, as far as having a one-year big year. But Frank's our guy. I want Frank to be with us. So we'll see how that works itself out."

Niners officials might be concerned that Gore's history suggests he is a durability risk. When he made it through last season, it represented the first time in five years he played an entire season injury-free. Also, after undergoing major surgeries on both knees during his college days at the University of Miami (Fla.), coupled with his hard-charging running style, there is a question how many years Gore will be able to play at a high level.

The 49ers seem to have all the leverage in negotiations.

Gore is under contract in 2007. Next year, the 49ers can virtually assure they retain Gore with a high tender as a restricted free agent. The 49ers would have the opportunity to match any offer sheet Gore signs, and if they decline they would receive first- and third-round draft picks. In 2009, the 49ers can lock up Gore for another season as the team's franchise player. In essence, the 49ers could keep Gore around for the next three years at an expected total price tag of around $13 million.

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The 49ers signed three-year NFL veteran LB Colby Bockwoldt on Monday. Bockwoldt (6-foot-2, 237 pounds) previously played with the New Orleans Saints from 2004-05 and with the Tennessee Titans in 2006. He has played in 48 NFL games and accumulated 156 tackles. Much of the reason rests Bockwoldt was signed lies with new special teams coach Al Everest, who coached Bockwoldt for two seasons with the Saints before Everest was not retained on coach Sean Payton's staff and Bockwoldt ended up with the Titans. Bockwoldt started 23 games his first two seasons with the Saints. Last year, he led the Titans with 20 special-teams tackles.

Originally a seventh-round draft choice of the Saints in 2004 out of Brigham Young, Bockwoldt earned the starting weakside linebacker position with seven games remaining as a rookie in 2004. In 2005 he started all 16 games and finished with 93 total tackles and 11 special teams tackles.

Last season, Bockwoldt went to training camp with New Orleans but was waived prior to the start of the regular season. He was claimed and awarded to the Titans. He played in all 16 games as a reserve linebacker and special teams player.

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Mark Nori has been added to the 49ers' coaching staff as offensive assistant/offensive line.

Nori joins the 49ers after spending the last three seasons as the tight ends/tackles coach for the University of Akron (2004-06). He spent the 2003 season at Maine as the offensive line coach following an offensive graduate assistant position at Pittsburgh in 2002. Nori graduated from Boston College in 1996 where he was a first-team All-Big East offensive lineman. He spent parts of four seasons (1997-2000) playing in the NFL with Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and the New York Giants.

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The 49ers hope outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain can help give the team's pass rush a spark. It doesn't matter how he gets there, as long as he can put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

And it doesn't matter to Banta-Cain, either. He can be used in pass-rush situations as a defensive end or a linebacker.

"I was a defensive end in college, so I'm comfortable being in a three-point stance," Banta-Cain said. "Playing a 34 with New England we rush our linebackers from the outside all the time. That's something I got comfortable doing. Whether my hand's in the dirt or I'm standing up, I can do both."

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Defensive end John Syptak of Rice was one of just 13 players the 49ers brought into their training facility for pre-draft visits. Syptak went undrafted but spent time with the Seahawks and Saints organizations last season. The 49ers signed him and allocated him to NFL Europe. Receiver C.J. Brewer is not going to play in NFL Europe, as planned, and therefore he no longer counts as a roster exemption.

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The 49ers began their off-season program Monday with workouts geared mostly to weight-training and conditioning. It'll also be the first opportunity for quarterback Alex Smith to spend time with new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti.

Jim Hostler, Smith's quarterbacks coach his first two seasons in the NFL, was promoted to 49ers offensive coordinator to replace Norv Turner, the Chargers' new head coach. Hostler previously worked with Cignetti at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, where both were on the staff of Cignetti's father, Frank Cignetti Sr.


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