Bruce Back for More
Saturday, July 29, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
It’s just another day of training camp practice for the Rams. The younger members of the team are going through the paces, hoping to take advantage of their shot at impressing the coaching staff. The older, experienced Rams are on the sideline, taking it all in and hydrating under the burning sun.
Well, most of the elder Rams that is. Off to the side, on a field separate from where the infant Rams are getting their chance at glory, stands veteran receiver Isaac Bruce.
Bruce is doing what he’s always done, taking balls from the JUGS machine, working on his hands. That’s right; the same hands that have hauled in 813 passes for 12,278 yards and 77 touchdowns in his illustrious career are getting in some extra work.
The same Bruce that caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV is going through a drill you would only expect to find a young receiver hoping to impress the coaches.
But make no mistake; Bruce isn’t worried about impressing anyone on this or any other day. He’s more than proved himself by this point in his career. Nobody is more of a critic of Bruce than Bruce. That’s why he is working when he doesn’t have to.
See, Bruce has goals, lofty goals that he doesn’t want to share with anyone else so as not to jinx himself. That’s how, at 33, Bruce is still one of the best-conditioned players in the league. He doesn’t need any outside motivation. He doesn’t need any pep talks or Tony Robbins, he’s his own inspiration.
“I’m self-motivated,” Bruce said. “I write my goals down and I see them every day. I get up and I go out and I do it.”
Bruce won’t disclose what his personal goals are, but he does admit that the list is ever-changing.
“You can’t stay the same, you either get better or you get worse,” Bruce said.
Aside from a toe injury that cost him five games in 2005, Bruce has showed few signs that he is getting worse. He still runs his routes with precision usually reserved for surgeons and still has hands that were seemingly manicured by Elmer’s glue factory.
Always upbeat and looking for positives, Bruce doesn’t often worry about much of anything. He finished last season with 36 catches for 525 yards and three touchdowns, his lowest output since 1998 when a hamstring injury held him to just five games.
Even at his advanced age, Bruce has showed few signs of slowing other than a somewhat fluky turf toe injury suffered against Tennessee in the third week of the season.
The toe has since healed and Bruce is showing no signs that he is ready to slow down. There have been no negative residual effects from the toe injury and Bruce is in as good of shape as ever.
“He’s the exception, not the rule,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He’s the consummate pro. I marvel at how great he looks and I’m not really making reference to his age. I mean, you wish all of the rookies would come in looking like this guy. He looks as fresh as ever to me. Not many guys take care of themselves the way he has to be able to still have the speed, the range for the ball and the practice performance. I know he’s going to do it in games, I have seen it for years, but to come out here in practice you can see why he has had such a long career.”
And Bruce has taken steps to prolong his career as much as possible. He recently altered his diet so that he essentially eats only organic products or things that are not processed by a machine. He also got married in the offseason.
Oh, and there’s one more thing that helps Bruce stay in such good shape.
“I stay away from OTAs as best I can,” Bruce said, only half-joking.
The Rams released Bruce just prior to free agency before striking a deal to bring him back and, hopefully, allow Bruce to retire as a Ram. Still, Bruce was essentially unaffected by the move and has begun the process of getting to know Linehan, the fifth coach Bruce has had in his career.
“It’s the same, it’s just pretty much figuring out his tendencies, what kind of person he is first and foremost and then next just watching and looking at his offensive coordinating abilities to get on the same page with him,” Bruce said.
Clearly, Linehan thinks highly of Bruce and has for sometime. Linehan made it clear from the first day he arrived that having veterans like Bruce around is one of the foundations of building a winning program. Bruce signed a three-year deal in the offseason, but it seems he will be welcome for as long as he’d like and he’s more than willing to help Linehan in his adjustment period to his new team.
“I think I can help from a player standpoint but as far as coaching and addressing the group, he has Coach (Jeff) Horton for that,” Bruce said. “As far as rallying the troops, that’s kind of what I do anyhow. The more I can do, I’m willing to do it.”
Even if it means stepping aside to catch a few more balls when nobody's looking.