DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The subject was playing through pain, and Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore drew on his extensive experience to share his thoughts with teammates Ryan Tannehill.
Gore’s an ageless model of durability, while Tannehill plans to return from a throwing shoulder injury and start for only the sixth time in the Dolphins’ past 31 games when they play Sunday at Indianapolis .
“He knows how much we need him,” Gore said. “It’s football, though. Everybody is going to be in pain from here on out. Talking to him when he wasn’t playing, he wanted to be out there. He knows that he’s going to be in pain, but you can tell that he wants to play, so that’s a plus for us.”
The 35-year-old Gore will be in the lineup too, which almost goes without saying. He’ll start his 119th consecutive game, by far the most of any active running back.
That includes 48 games with the Colts in 2015-17. They then let Gore go, providing him with a little extra motivation when he faces his former team.
Not that he needs any.
“I want to win,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and try to be me.”
That has been plenty for the Dolphins (5-5), who can count Gore as one of the bright spots in a season full of downers. He beat out the more explosive Kenyan Drake for the starting job and leads the team with 528 yards rushing, padding a career total that is the highest among active players and fourth on the all-time list.
And this year may not be his swan song. Gore’s yards per carry average of 4.5 is his best since 2012 with San Francisco. Anyone who has watched him break tackle after tackle this year can believe he’ll be back at 36.
“I feel like as long as I’m healthy and blessed and feeling good and know I can still play, I’m going to play,” he said. “I’ll evaluate myself at the end, my body, and see if I still want to go out in the offseason and train to get ready for another year. That’s when I’ll make my decision.”
He’s already a rarity at a position not known for longevity. Last week he became the first player to rush for 500 yards in 14 consecutive seasons, one more than Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
The achievement won Gore plaudits from around the NFL — and beyond.
“Frank is my favorite player of all-time that I’ve ever coached,” said former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who is now at the University of Michigan. “Surpassing Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith is incredible, just incredible.”
Equally impressed — but not surprised — is Dolphins coach Adam Gase. He was a 49ers assistant in 2008, when Gore ran for 1,036 yards for them.
“Our guys watch him practice, and it’s almost like you forget where he’s at in his career,” Gase said. “He treats it like he’s an undrafted free agent almost. He practices extremely hard. He finishes everything he does. There’s a lot of pride there. Seeing him 10 years ago and then seeing him now, there’s just not a lot of differences in how he plays and what he can do.”
Gore is still chasing a Super Bowl championship ring, and hasn’t been to the playoffs in five years. He thought he would get there with the Colts, but injuries to quarterback Andrew Luck and other teammates sabotaged their chances.
“It just didn’t go the way I planned it, but I had fun,” Gore said. “The organization was great. Great people there. We fought.”
It has been more of the same in Gore’s native Miami, with his homecoming undermined by a wave of injuries to Tannehill and others.
Meanwhile, the old man at running back just keeps showing up for work. Others may be surprised Gore is still going strong, but he’s not.
“I know how I train,” he said. “I know how I go out every day in practice. I know in the offseason how I get myself ready. Competing with guys younger than me at my position, being around them every day, that helps me.”
And he learned a long time ago how to play through pain.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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