"There's that link to that great era and where we are right now," Harbaugh said. "He does it in a very good way, respectful to both those teams that he played on and these teams that he's coaching. Always wise words from Tom. He's a ball coach. The thing I admire about him is he never takes a break coaching. He is coaching all the time. He's coaching in meetings, he's coaching on the practice field, he's coaching on the way out to walk-through, coaching in the lobby, coaching in the hallways here. His meetings start a half-hour before everybody else's do. It's just great to see the consummate team guy that Tom Rathman is."
Gore, who didn't practice Wednesday because of a right knee injury, sure appreciates it.
Gore had his franchise-record five straight games with 100 or more yards rushing end last week, when he got hurt and was held to zero yards on six carries — his first career game without a yard when he played. Gore has 7,196 career yards rushing and needs 149 to pass late Hall of Famer Joe Perry (7,344) for the most in franchise history.
"You teach technique, point courses, footwork, that put you in a position to execute your technique or your job," Rathman said. "Once you deviate off that, chances of winning go down. ... The bottom line is going off and executing. If they don't, then I'm going to get on them. I'm going to tell them the truth."
Some say the 49ers are showing more of a nasty edge this season. Rathman certainly influences that mentality.
"It's being a football player. I always thought we had a group of guys that had a lot of toughness in them, we've just never been in the situation we're in," Gore said.
The 49ers were able to open up their passing game as the Giants focused on stopping the run — a testament to how effective Rathman's unit has been during this 8-1 start and seven-game winning streak.
"No beating around the bush, he's going to call it how he sees it," Smith said Wednesday. "He's going to call everyone out. It's not like Frank's in there and because Frank's our guy he gets it easy, everybody's getting called out if you're not on your stuff. He's by far, hands-down, the best running backs coach I've ever been around. Understanding those guys, getting those guys ready to go, he just understands football the best when it comes to protections and pressures. He's just on it, a true professional."
Harbaugh and Rathman were players in the league at the same time. Rathman hasn't strayed far from his go-after-them approach as a player in his role on the sidelines.
"There's no question about it. I think his intensity is at 10," Harbaugh said. "If there's another rung, he's at the top of it. He'll probably find another rung. Knowing Tom, he'll find the 11th."
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