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Saturday, June 6, 2020 3:39am

Jets’ Frank Gore says AFC East is ‘wide open’ without Tom Brady


New York Jets running back Frank Gore, on his third AFC East team in three seasons, has spent his time in the division looking up at the New England Patriots.

The balance of power, he believes, could be on the verge of shifting.

“It’s wide open,” Gore said Thursday on videoconference with reporters. “[Tom] Brady‘s gone, and it’s wide open. You’ve got young quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Josh [Allen]. I don’t know what Miami is doing or whatever. I think it’s wide open.”

The Patriots have captured 11 straight division titles, not to mention three Super Bowl championships in that span. Gore’s current team and former teams — the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills — are hoping to capitalize on Brady’s defection to the NFC.

Gore, 37, third on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, decided to stay in the division, signing a one-year, $1.05 million contract earlier this month. The Jets’ plan is to have him back up Le’Veon Bell and serve as a mentor to rookie La’Mical Perine, a fourth-round pick from Florida.

The Gore-Bell-Adam Gase storyline will be one to watch. Gase coached Gore in Miami in 2018 and has a strong affinity for the veteran running back. Meanwhile, the coach’s relationship with Bell has been portrayed as lukewarm. How Gase splits the work between Bell and Gore will be fascinating.

Gore, who said Gase is one of the main reasons he signed with the Jets, lauded Bell as a tough competitor and hard worker. Gore said he will have no problem playing behind Bell.

“I’m cool,” Gore said. “I’m happy to be playing this game at my age. I’m happy that this organization is giving me an opportunity. I’m just coming in to work and help all the young guys, and show them young guys I still can play. Whenever I get my number called, I’ll just try to go out and make a play for our team to be successful. I’m very excited.”

Gore said he hasn’t spoken with Bell since last season’s finale between the Bills and Jets, when he ventured into the Jets’ locker room after the game to exchange pleasantries with Bell and safety Jamal Adams.

“I told him I need a jersey to put on my wall just because I respect his game,” Gore said of Bell. “I respect the way he prepares himself to get ready for the season. … He always respected me; I respected him. It will be fun. I’ve been around a bunch of talented running backs my whole career — college, the NFL. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help him, to help the other guys and also help the team be successful.”

Gore set career lows in rushing yards (599) and yards per carry (3.6) last season, eventually losing playing time to rookie Devin Singletary. Despite the decline, Gore said he never considered retirement.

“I didn’t, because when I was playing the first six or seven games, I was balling,” Gore said. “I was balling. Once Buffalo started playing a younger guy, I felt like I still could do it. I just had to see what team would give me an opportunity.”

He also consulted with his son, Frank Gore Jr, who is entering Southern Miss in the fall.

“He was like, ‘Dad, I think you can go one more,'” he said.

Gore said he picked the Jets because of Gase, Adams and Darnold. Asked whether they could dethrone the Patriots, Gore gave props to the Bills, widely regarded as the division’s heir apparent.

“Buffalo, they have a bunch of great young talent,” Gore said. “The head coach, I respect him a lot. The general manager, I respect him a lot. They’re doing great things over there, but I’m on the other side now.”



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