Gore finding new life in new offense

Frank Gore, a guy who looks like he has gotten a new lease on life this summer, said this on Tuesday: "We have a new leader, man, a new leader on the ship. When he stands up in the room, and you hear him talk, you know that he knows what he's talking about. Everything is going to change this year." Who is Gore talking about?

It's offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who is having a profound effect on San Francisco's offense in particular and the team in general this summer.

And nobody in particular more than than Gore.

"You just listen to him standing up there and going over everything," Gore said. "There's a feeling to it. You can go a long ways with him. What I like about coach Martz is that no matter what you did in this league, he can still make you feel like you have to prove yourself. That makes you want to play hard. Like me - I have a couple of great years in this league, but if I'm messing up, he's going to get on me. That's what I like about him. I feel that when a coach does that, he can make you a better player."

Gore has looked like a better player this summer, and that's saying something considering what he's already accomplished in his first three seasons with the 49ers.

But as he darts around on the practice field these days, looking as smooth, powerful and explosive as ever, it's becoming apparent that Martz's detailed system is bringing out Gore's full potential, and the 49ers can only hope that carries over to the real games in September.

Gore is loving every minute he spends in Martz's attack. After being a marked man in the NFL's worst offense during a very discouraging 2007 season, Gore is seeing a whole new look in front of him this summer whenever the ball gets in his hands.

"It's fun, man," Gore said Tuesday, a wide smile adorning his face – and remaining there as he answered questions with rapid-fire responses.

"Going through last year," Gore went on, "it would take the whole (first) half for us to get across the 50-yard line. And now we're just moving the ball anytime we want. Like when we first came out against Chicago (last Thursday night), we went straight down the field, making plays, having fun, making the game feel like it's easy again."

It has been a while since the game was easy for Gore or the San Francisco offense, which finished dead last in the NFL rankings last year in almost every significant statistical category.

After his breakout 2006 season, when he rushed for a franchise-record 1,695 yards and started for the NFC in the Pro Bowl, Gore experienced a real downer during a 2007 season that began with high expectations for both him and the 49ers.

Gore was hampered by an ankle injury and constantly faced defenses designed to stop him that stacked the box with eight and sometimes nine defenders. He still produced a solid season, finishing fifth in the NFC with 1,102 yards rushing and leading the team in receptions for the second consecutive year with 53. He finished with those numbers even though he was San Francisco's only legitimate offensive threat by the end of the season.

It has been different this year since Martz took over as San Francisco's offensive coordinator.

The 49ers displayed new explosiveness on offense while scoring 71 points in a recent six-day span that produced exhibition victories over Green Bay and Chicago. Gore was in the middle of it all, rushing for 80 yards on 14 carries in limited action with the first unit in the two games.

Gore sent the 49ers on their way to scoring drives on their first four possessions against Chicago, charging up the middle for 11 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage, then bursting across the field for a 28-yard gain on the next play. He also had two receptions for 19 yards before leaving the game at the end of the first quarter.

"This offense is better than when I had 1,600 yards," Gore said. "(Opponents) can't really sit safeties down (and) put eight, nine men in the box. So the big lanes are coming, and I have to take advantage of that."

Gore can't wait for the Sept. 7 season opener against Arizona, when the 49ers will unleash him with the rest of the juiced-up offensive attack. Gore and San Francisco's other starters might not play more than one series in Friday's exhibition finale against San Diego.

Everybody around the 49ers has noticed a change in Gore's demeanor this summer while he has become a central figure in Martz's attack.

"He looks like he's enjoying himself," coach Mike Nolan said. "I know he's excited about the offense, and he's had real good communication with Mike Martz about his role in the offense way back from the time I even hired Mike. It's one thing to communicate it, but obviously it's another thing when you get on the field and all of a sudden you see that it's happening.

"I think that pleases Frank, and obviously that pleases us all because he's a real key, integral part of what we do. So I think that's why you see him kind of bubbly like he is."

Gore also is working with a new running backs coach, Tony Nathan, and said the former NFL running back has been a "big help" in his development.

But Gore gives Martz most of the credit for a revamped offense that ranks sixth in the NFL in total offense during the preseason with 349.7 yards per game and third in scoring with a 25.7 average. He is eager to see what that offense can do once the real games begin.

"When everybody gets on the same page, it's going to be crazy," Gore said. "My goal, man, is to go out there and play hard every game and give 100 percent. I'm going to be all over the place. I'm going to have fun, man."

Maybe even more fun than he's having already.

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