SANTA CLARA (CBS/AP) — The San Francisco 49ers still are in learning mode as they prepare for Sunday’s season opener, and nobody really knows what to expect from the team’s new offense.
But the catalyst of the attack, running back Frank Gore, says the Niners have a lot of weapons and that other teams are going to see “some real good stuff.”
“We’ve always had talent on the offensive side of the ball, but not like we have it now,” Gore said Thursday. “And now we really have somebody to show us how it’s done. It should be real good for us all. (Other) teams better be ready.”
New head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff didn’t show much during an exhibition season when the 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense and last in passing offense.
While Harbaugh insists his offense wasn’t “vanilla” during the preseason, the 49ers could have an element of surprise in their favor when they host defending NFC West champion Seattle to begin the season.
A two-time Pro Bowler, Gore is surrounded by more Pro Bowl talent at the skill positions in tight end Vernon Davis and newcomer receiver Braylon Edwards. The 49ers also welcomed the return this week of receiver Michael Crabtree, who says he’s ready to play against the Seahawks.
Crabtree missed training camp and all four exhibition games for the third consecutive year with a left foot injury that required surgery at the end of July. But he practiced without limitations for the second day in a row Thursday and hopes to have a role in the opener.
“I’m full speed,” Crabtree said . “I’m all good. I’ve been here before. This is nothing new to me. I’m ready and focused. It feels like a game today.”
Crabtree led all San Francisco wide receivers last year with 55 receptions for 741 yards, one catch fewer than Davis, who led the team with 914 yards and seven touchdowns receiving.
Crabtree returned from the physically unable to perform list last week to find himself in the middle of a heated competition at wide receiver that includes Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr. and Josh Morgan, who had 44 receptions for 698 yards last season.
San Francisco added Edwards to that group in August, and like many players this summer he has been feeling his way around in Harbaugh’s version of the West Coast offense while attempting to develop a rapport with quarterback Alex Smith.
The 49ers were far from impressive with Smith at the controls during a 2-2 preseason. But other players have shared Gore’s excitement this week that the offense is ready for a breakout once the real games begin.
Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman were known for their creative use of different formations and personnel groups last year at Stanford, when the Cardinal scored a school-record 524 points. But Harbaugh and Roman are downplaying the suggestion this week that the 49ers have been holding back for the regular season.
“We’re a new group,” Roman said. “I met most of these guys a month ago. We’ve had a shorter time frame to work with, and therefore we’re probably not going to have the volume that you would normally have. I’m not sure we’ve been able to get anything together that is really going to surprise anybody. But you are what you are. We’re going to do everything we can to win the game.”
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