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SANTA CLARA – Most of the criticism directed at the 49ers’ offensive game plans generally boils down to one idea: Running back Frank Gore is being under-utilized.
But 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman suggested Friday that there is a reason the team limits the number of times Gore touches the football.
“We don’t want to just ride that stallion all day, every day,” Roman said. “There’s a point of diminishing returns at some point. That’s almost true for any player at that position. Who gets hit more than running backs?”
Gore has carried 77 times for 365 yards in five games this season. It’s his second-fewest rushing attempts thorugh five games in his career. In 2009, he had 65 carries through five games but also had an ankle injury that limited him to one attempt.
Since Gore took over as the featured running back in 2006, the 49ers feel confident they have their next every-down back on the roster. Rookie Carlos Hyde has 132 yards rushing on 34 attempts.
“I think we’re in good shape and feel confident, and I think Carlos Hyde is an ascending player,” Roman said. “And we’ll have a chance to work with another running back pretty soon.”
Gore and Hyde are the only running backs on the 49ers’ 53-man roster. After the Oct. 26 bye Sunday, the 49ers are expected to declare running back Marcus Lattimore ready to practice. When Lattimore begins practice, the 49ers will have 21 days to activate him, release him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
“The only thing I’ve really seen is him moving, working out physically, doing drills and what-not,” Roman said. “He looks good.”
How Lattimore looks on the practice field and many other variables will determine whether he will actually suits up and has a chance to contribute in the final six regular-season games.
“You’ll have to see at that time,” Roman said. “Have to wait and see how things are at the appropriate time. It’s too early to answer.”