Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports



On Sunday, fans will see a familiar face going against the San Francisco 49ers for the first time in his career. When the 49ers defense takes the field in Indianapolis, the running back on the other side of the football will be Frank Gore, who played 10 years for San Francisco. Gore has been praised this week by his Sunday opponents.

"I know everyone knows how good he is," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday, "but I still think he's one of the most underrated backs of our generation. I have nothing but respect for Frank."

"He's still a tough S.O.B," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said on Thursday. "He'll still run downhill. He'll still put his face right on you. He's still pretty good out of the backfield. He's still a dynamic running back and he's still able to create when there's nothing there."

Gore, who remains a fan of his former team, likes what the 49ers have done this season in an attempt to revive the franchise.

"I think they're going in the right direction," Gore told Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. "They're really tough. I like their coaching staff. I like what they're doing on offense."

"I want to see them do great," Gore continued. "I've been there 10 years. That's what I bleed. I want to see them do good."

On Thursday night, former teammate Joe Staley joined "The Damon Bruce Show" on 95.7 The Game and was asked if he would seek out Gore on Sunday to give him a hug or have a chat.

"Oh yeah," Staley said. "100 percent. Frank's one of the biggest influences on my career as a football player. I came in as a rookie, didn't really know what to think as far as the NFL and how guys work and everything. I just knew that I wanted to kind of keep my mouth shut and look at the guys that had success in the league and try to follow them. There's no better person on this football team, at the time, than Frank Gore.

"The whole time he was here, the guy worked like he was an undrafted free agent every single day of the time here. He always had kind of a chip on his shoulder and showed me what it was to work and how to practice and that mindset that I was talking about – always trying to improve on something.

"The guy was coming off a 1,600-yard season the year before. You'd think, if they had known any better, the guy would think that he made it and that he could have success in the league and he was always trying to fine-tune different keys that he could see on linebackers and if someone was overplaying it or what his footwork was on a specific route or pass protection, completely understanding everything that we were doing to make his job easier and also communication and all that stuff. Let alone the stuff he was doing off the field in the weight room and the training room.

"He was someone that had a definite impact in my career and kind of taught me how to work and what it was to be a professional. We still keep in contact often so I'll see him, if not before, then after the game."

Another of Staley's teammates and friends is finding great success in Kansas City. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is the third-highest graded quarterback in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He has completed 76-percent of his passes for 1,067 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions through four games. The Chiefs are undefeated and look like a favorite in the AFC. Smith is having the best season of his career, again, according to Pro Football Focus' metrics.

Staley could not be happier for his former quarterback.

"I'm very happy for him and I've kept in contact with him, obviously," Staley said. "We're still pretty close. Just the way he's fought through so much adversity with it being here and then being let go and having to go there and start over, basically. I'm just happy to see him having success and finally getting his due."

The 49ers tackle was asked to confirm reports that he wasn't happy with the decision to trade Smith to Kansas City.

"No, I wasn't," Staley said. "I think that was pretty well documented. I was not at the time. But at the same time, Colin took us to the Super Bowl that year and we went to another NFC Championship game there with him so he was able to do a lot of good things too."