Veteran WR Bruce quietly settles in with Niners Print
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Tuesday, 29 July 2008 14:14
NFL Headline News

 SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Isaac Bruce hunched over his new locker and ardently concentrated on mixing up an electric-pink protein shake Tuesday, as if he somehow hoped a sip of the magic elixir would grant him invisibility.
It didn't work, and the San Francisco 49ers' oldest new receiver was forced into a short, awkward discussion about his hopes for the twilight of his career after leaving his longtime teammates in St. Louis.
``Change is always inevitable, but growth is optional,'' the 35-year-old Bruce said. ``I'm growing. I do miss a couple of guys back where I left, but I'm here now.''
h-leading receiver in league history.
Though the four-time Pro Bowl selection hasn't practiced much with his new club, Bruce seems likely to be the No. 1 threat with the 49ers, who have fielded some of the NFL's worst collections of receivers over the last five years.
Only Jerry Rice and Tim Brown have more total yards receiving than Bruce's 14,109, which he racked up during several seasons as the top acrobatic act in the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf.
Bruce was the Rams' last remaining player from their days in Los Angeles. But he's valuable in San Francisco both for his veteran experience and his familiarity with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the architect of the St. Louis offense that propelled him to stardom.
``For the young receivers back there, when we're going through these routes, he quietly will talk to these guys about how to beat (coverage),'' Martz said of Bruce. ``The confidence it takes, and changing direction - just the technical aspect of it. I think he's a help there, and there's some things that he can do that he's not going to be able to teach anybody else. He's just Isaac. That's Isaac.''
Along with new receiver Bryant Johnson, Martz and Bruce will play a big role in determining whether the 49ers offense emerges from its half-decade of misery. The 49ers retooled their line, but otherwise made no big changes to the unit that floundered throughout a 5-11 season in 2007.
While deciding where to sign, Bruce was pleased to learn that last season's above-average San Francisco defense was returning largely intact.
``I played against this defense for the last two seasons, and this defense has been really good,'' Bruce said. ``Special teams has been good as well. They have a lot of different nuances that they can run with the players that they have.''
The 49ers offense is another matter. San Francisco hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003, and its recent past includes a list of mostly terrible replacements for Owens: Brandon Lloyd, Rashaun Woods, Johnnie Morton, Curtis Conway, Antonio Bryant and Darrell Jackson, who was dropped in the offseason.
Bruce's 55 catches last season with St. Louis were still more than anybody on the 49ers, who have been led in receiving by running back Frank Gore for the past two years. Though Bruce isn't wearing his familiar No. 80, apparently in deference to Rice - he is No. 88 - he'll be counted on to produce his usual numbers in an offense that finished last in the NFL in several statistical categories last season.
Bruce said Martz's offense is essentially installed, allowing the 49ers to spend August refining the schemes. Bruce won't play much in the preseason, if at all, as the 49ers strive to keep him healthy for the games that count.
``I'm impressed,'' he said. ``Everyone is coming along really well. We're about where we should be right now.''
 

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