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Thread: Keeping Bruce a Priority
Keeping Bruce a Priority
Friday, February 24, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
INDIANAPOLIS – Stop the rumors, stop the innuendo; Isaac Bruce wants to stay a Ram and the Rams want Isaac Bruce to stay.
Rams coach Scott Linehan made it clear how important Bruce is to the Rams on Friday afternoon at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“I think it’s real critical to do everything we can – he’s still on our team obviously – but all those things you hear out there and I am hearing the same things,” Linehan said. “We will do whatever we can to make sure he is helping us next year and on the field.”
For the past few years, gossip has run rampant that Bruce will become a cap casualty. Last year, that gossip reached its peak as Bruce was due a salary in the $10 million range that would seem to be crippling to the payroll.
However, after plenty of outside speculation, there were never any real thought given to allowing Bruce to leave, especially after he posted 89 catches for 1,262 yards and six touchdowns in 2004.
Not long after the end of this season, though, certain members of the national media have already begun calling for Bruce to be set free again. This time, Bruce is coming off his worst season since a hamstring injury cost him all but five games in 1998. He finished the year with 36 catches for 525 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, though, Bruce was hampered by a turf toe injury suffered against Tennessee in the third game of the season. That injury cost him five games and noticeably bothered Bruce in his route running and speed even after his return.
Even with the toe bothering him, Bruce proved to still have plenty of gas left in the tank. After moving past 800 career catches and 12,000 career yards, Bruce said he felt young enough to continue well into the future.
“I feel like I’ve got a long career ahead of me,” Bruce said in December. “I’m not really ready to put a punctuation mark behind it. I just move on, move to the next week.”
Of course, retaining Bruce probably won’t be as simple as just saying it. He does carry a large cap number this season (around $10 million) and will probably have to sign a contract extension that will spread some of that money out for a longer period of time to give the Rams cap flexibility to sign defensive help. Bruce told a local radio station (ESPN 1380) that he’s “easy” and would like to get an extension done.
Linehan said he would love to have Bruce around for as long as Bruce would like to be there.
“Certainly,” Linehan said. “As long as we can keep him. It’s one of those things that is out of your control, but I don’t think in this case that is the case. He’s still got some life left in him and we have had very good meetings with him.”
Soon after Linehan was hired, he made it a point to get his veteran leaders – players such as Marshall Faulk, Andy McCollum, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Bruce – in meetings to discuss the direction of the team and possible terminology changes or alterations.
Linehan also had a discussion with retained receivers coach Henry Ellard about some of the returning players and Ellard made it clear how important Bruce is to the franchise and the city as a whole.
“It’s very important,” Ellard said. “Scott understands that and he talks about that because Ike was the last guy to make the transition from LA. He is the face of the Rams, like Jack Snow was. You have got to (keep him). Scott knows that and I think things will work themselves out.”
Linehan does understand that and is making it clear that Bruce is a critical part of the Rams, regardless of some of the senseless speculation that is out there.
“I said it the first day that the veteran leadership we have on this team is critical and you can’t replace it,” Linehan said. “If you lose it, it’s irreplaceable. A guy like Isaac, who has been such a big part of this franchise – he’s the only original Ram that started in Los Angeles, he has been part of this team all the way back to those days – and he really represents what we are trying to promote.
“That’s a guy that does it consistently over time and still has a lot of juice. If you watch him even before he hurt his toe this year and he still runs every bit as good in my opinion as he ever did. The guy just diligently went about his business and how he would train as he got older to be in better condition as he got older and years started creeping in on him. He really has proven that he can stay consistent in this business that way. He has got a couple of really good years left in him.”
In every NFL season in which Bruce has played injury free, that production has been on par with some of the greatest receivers ever to play. His career numbers stand at 813 catches with 12,278 yards and 77 touchdowns. Maybe Bruce isn’t yet a surefire Hall of Famer, but he is well on his way and an extension could send him on his way toward 1,000 catches and perhaps 15,000 yards.
Ellard said he could see Bruce playing and playing well for the foreseeable future.
“Watching the tape from last year, the guys were amazed even when he came back off the injury how well Isaac moved up the field,” Ellard said. “You give him the first 15 yards and he can move with the best of them. He really impressed them. It’s just a matter of making sure he doesn’t wear himself out and managing his time, especially in the early part of the season so when we get in that stretch run, he is playing at a high level.”
Re: Keeping Bruce a Priority
This is the greatest news that I could have possibly heard. Thank you.
Re: Keeping Bruce a Priority
Now, Keeping Bruce Healthy Should Be The Top Priority![SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]