To understand just how long San Francisco wide receiver Isaac Bruce has been in the NFL, all you have to do is look at the team that drafted him. Bruce was drafted by a team that isn’t even in existence any longer – the Los Angeles Rams.
Granted, the Rams are technically still in existence in St. Louis; but Bruce was drafted by a franchise that ceased to be no more in 1994. Bruce was selected by the Rams in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. He is currently playing in his 15th season in the league.
Punters are supposed to last 15 years in the NFL. Kickers can also play 15 years without suffering too much damage. But wide receivers who have to run crossing routes and take vicious hits from punishing defensive backs? They aren’t supposed to last 15 years, let alone to still be productive that long.
However, Isaac Bruce isn’t your typical NFL receiver.
After playing the first 14 years of his career with the Rams, Bruce signed as a free agent with the 49ers this year. It wasn’t one of the marquee off-season signings because many people thought Bruce was a graybeard who wouldn’t be much more than a third-down option for San Francisco.
Being reunited in San Francisco with offensive coordinator Mike Martz did nothing but help Bruce. He realized some of his most productive years with Martz in St. Louis, catching 77 passes in 1999 and 87 in 2000 for the Rams.
Bruce has given the 49ers a reliable receiver who runs crisp routes, holds onto the ball and knows how to come back to help out his young quarterback when he’s in trouble. As a result, Bruce is leading the 49ers in receiving yards (275) yards per catch (19.6) and touchdowns (4). So much for being over the hill, right?
Bruce has helped quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan put up respectable numbers in his first starting role in the league. After five games, O’Sullivan has completed almost 59 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,092 yards. Defenses can no longer key solely on running back Frank Gore because of the improvement of O’Sullivan and the presence of Bruce.
The 49ers have lost two-straight games on the season, but they are only one game behind NFC West Division-leading Arizona. At 2-3, San Francisco enters a key two-game stretch where it hosts the Philadelphia Eagles and travels to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
If Bruce can continue to play like he still has some time left on his side, the 49ers just might be in the playoff hunt as the season reaches its midway point.