SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (AP) - Running back Frank Gore is hoping to get a new long-term deal from the San Francisco 49ers before the season opener.
Such a commitment would not be unprecedented from a franchise that rewarded All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis last year and then tight end Vernon Davis on the eve of the 2010 opener at Seattle.
"Hopefully it will get done soon. Hopefully it will get done before the season," Gore said before Tuesday's practice. "If it don't, I've just got to go play. If I have to be a free agent, I'll be a free agent."
Davis signed a five-year extension worth $37 million overall, including $34 million guaranteed _ making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history. In May 2010, Willis received a $50 million, five-year contract extension that takes him through the 2016 season and includes $29 million in guaranteed money. He earns $10 million per season.
Gore's situation is slightly different considering the 28-year-old two-time Pro Bowler missed the final five games last season with a fractured right hip sustained in a Monday night game at Arizona on Nov. 29. He avoided surgery for the injury after doctors told him he likely could return to his former form with rehabilitation.
Gore certainly will seek a contract comparable to the $43 million, five-year deal Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams _ 20 days older than San Francisco's star _ recently received from the Panthers. That includes $21 million guaranteed. Williams was sidelined for 10 games last year with a sprained right foot.
"I hope they do (reward me)," Gore said. "If they don't, I'll become a free agent."
Gore insists he feels like his old self again and is completely healthy.
"What do you think?" Gore said with a grin.
Yes, he looks it. Whether that's enough for the 49ers front office to make him a big-money offer before the Sept. 11 opener at home against the Seahawks is unclear. Management might want to see him in action for a while.
Gore said he hasn't received any word from the team on a potential extension.
He begins the year third on the franchise all-time rushing list. He needs 931 yards to be No. 1, but said that's not his top priority.
The late Hall of Famer Joe Perry is San Francisco's all-time leader in yards rushing (7,344) and touchdowns rushing (50).
Gore and the rest of the 49ers will wear Perry's No. 34 on their helmets this season. Perry, the first player with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and nicknamed "The Jet" for his sensational speed, died in April at age 84.
"That is one of my goals. Hopefully I'll stay healthy and get it done," Gore said of topping Perry's mark. "I feel good. I feel like the 22-year-old Frank Gore, ready to take the load, ready to play. I feel like I can score any time I touch the ball. I can block anybody I've got to block. I'm just trying to get the offense down pat and get ready for Seattle."
Gore ran for 853 yards and three touchdowns in his sixth NFL season and caught 46 passes for 452 yards and two TDs. Gore's 24 100-yard rushing games are the most in 49ers franchise history.
He isn't used to playing much in the preseason, but coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to see Gore play. He was on the field for the first seven plays in a 24-3 loss at New Orleans last Friday night, Gore carrying four times for 20 yards. He typically only takes part for a handful of snaps total during the exhibition season.
"I was hoping not to play because I feel like I like to work hard in practice," Gore said Tuesday. "But I was happy that Coach had me out there for a couple plays, just to get some hits in and get up to speed in a game again. I didn't want to come out, really."
Also Tuesday, it appeared the 49ers were still contemplating whether to sign veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who worked out for the team a day earlier.