SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Isaac Bruce is a tough guy to figure out, and he seems to be an even tougher guy to befriend. Many of his Rams teammates never managed it during the prolific receiver's 14 years with the club, and his new crew in San Francisco isn't having much more success.
Just ask Torry Holt, his close running mate for nine years in St. Louis, where they formed arguably the NFL's best pass-catching tandem before Bruce's release and subsequent signing with the NFC West rival 49ers last winter.
``I spoke to Isaac weeks ago, just a brief chat,'' Holt said. ``I think he also spoke with a few people in the organization through text message, giving us some words of encouragement. I don't speak to him on a day-to-day basis, but there are times when we'll touch base and wish each other well.''
Can't you feel the love?
When the 49ers host the Rams at Candlestick Park on Sunday in an otherwise banal matchup between two 2-7 teams with interim coaches and gaping injury problems, many St. Louis fans will be eager to see how the franchise leader in most significant receiving categories is faring on the West Coast.
But will Holt, Marc Bulger or the Rams' horned helmets spark any particular emotions in Bruce, who had been with the club since its final season in Los Angeles?
``Not at all,'' Bruce said. ``I don't live my life emotionally. I live a principle-led life. I know business is business, and sometimes business falls on people who don't want it to fall on them. It fell on Isaac Bruce. I wasn't surprised.''
Bruce, who turned 36 on Monday, is among the most steadily successful receivers in NFL history, but he's also an intensely private family man who's soft-spoken and circumspect in every setting, according to the teammates and coaches who aspire to know him better.
pointedly denies feeling any pride in their development.
Bruce's return to St. Louis on Dec. 21 might create a bit more emotion, but he calmly insists his first meeting with the Rams is just business. He acknowledged a sliver of disappointment back when the Rams finally dropped him in late February, but Bruce seems to believe regret is a character defect.
Still, there might be some emotion about his departure lurking below the surface: When asked if he spoke regularly to anybody in St. Louis, Bruce declined to answer.
``Sometimes I say they beat me to the draw,'' said Bruce, who's 415 yards shy of passing Tim Brown for second place in NFL history in yards receiving. ``I don't lose friendships because I leave. If I did, they were never my friends. ... Really, I practiced against them for about 14 years, so it's no big difference.''
San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz also has a lengthy history with the Rams, but his acrimonious parting with the club occurred nearly three years ago. Martz now has plenty of problems in San Francisco, where his offense has shown only intermittent signs of life during a six-game losing streak that cost coach Mike Nolan his job.
on the final questionable play call of a ramshackle drive. Although the 49ers didn't execute particularly well in the clutch, their mere ability to stay close with the division-leading Cardinals seemed to be cause for optimism among several 49ers.
``I think you can see us coming together and getting more comfortable in the offense,'' said tight end Vernon Davis, who made an acrobatic TD catch in Arizona - and then got yet another unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. ``Everybody is starting to see their role, and I know I'm feeling better about us.''
Yet the 49ers' offense is doing just fine compared to the Rams, who are among the NFL's worst in several offensive statistical categories despite the presence of Holt, Bulger and Steven Jackson, who probably will miss Sunday's game with a leg injury. St. Louis' problems culminated last week in a humiliating 47-3 loss to the New York Jets that seemed to roll back much of the club's progress under interim coach Jim Haslett.
``I do think they're not a bad football team, and I don't think we're that bad a football team,'' Haslett said. ``Obviously, you're not going to have a lot of people watching it, but I do think it's going to be a pretty good football game to watch.''

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