49ers Bruce Squares Off Against Old Team

Isaac Bruce eager to play Rams

The St. Louis Rams released Isaac Bruce after 14 seasons last winter, and current players don't want him getting too frisky in his first game as an opponent.

Bruce caught the winning touchdown pass in the Rams' lone Super Bowl victory after the 1999 season, and was with the franchise so long he bridged the gap to 1994, his rookie year and the franchise's final season on the West Coast. Now that he's catching passes for the San Francisco 49ers, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa promises he won't get all sentimental.

"What am I going to say to him? I want to actually hit him pretty good. Seriously, I do," Tinoisamoa said. "I know he's going to try to prove something and we don't want that.

"When I hit him, I'm not going to say nothing because I want to hit him again and hit him again, and I'll say something to him after the game."

The 36-year-old Bruce was released twice in a three-year span by the Rams, re-signing in 2006 after the franchise improved its salary cap situation, and for good last February after failed attempts at again restructuring Bruce's contract and just before a $2 million roster bonus was due.

"I never could have imagined him in another uniform but this one," defensive end Leonard Little said.

Bruce has 24 receptions and four touchdowns this season with a 17.1-yard average, second-highest of his career. His 88 career TDs are tied for ninth all-time, his 14,520 yards receiving trails only Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, and his 966 catches is fifth on the career list.

He's kept his thoughts on the matter private, declining requests to speak to St. Louis media on the weekly opponents' conference call.

Bruce is one of two reunion opponents for the Rams heading into Sunday's lackluster matchup of 2-7 teams. San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz was the architect of the Greatest Show on Turf, serving as offensive coordinator in the '99 Super Bowl and as head coach for the 2001 team that lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots.

"I owe a lot to Mike. He taught me how to play quarterback in this league," the Rams' Marc Bulger said. "This week we want to beat them, but it's fun to watch both those guys operate."

Bulger said it was "weird" seeing Bruce with No. 88 on his jersey, after all those seasons wearing No. 80 with the Rams. Jerry Rice had that number with the 49ers and it's been retired.

Then again, after all those seasons working with him, Bulger hardly needed help identifying Bruce.

"I'm so used to him with the 80 and Rams horns," Bulger said. "Once you see him run, and I worked with him so much, that stride, you recognize that."

Bulger said working under Martz was trying at times, but regretted none of it.

"It was tough, but it's one of those things when you look back you can see what he was trying to do," Bulger said. "It's easier to talk about now because you can sit back and realize how great he is at what he does.

"I don't know if I'd want to go through that learning process again, but he's pretty good at what he does."

When the Saints and Rams were in the NFC West, Martz and Jim Haslett often locked horns. Haslett said Martz was helpful when he joined Scott Linehan's staff as Rams defensive coordinator in 2006.

"During the era when we were both going at each other, we didn't really talk much because obviously it's two ends of the spectrum," Haslett said. "When I came here we talked about the organization, what to expect and how things were run, because obviously he had great insight on it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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