Isaac Bruce spent 14 years in a Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams uniform. He's been with the Rams at their highest and lowest points. Playoff berths, division titles, conference titles and even a Super Bowl victory.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk with Isaac about the work he's doing with the "Take it to the House" campaign, concussions, the 2010 Rams, Sam Bradford and his thoughts on a variety of other topics.
No better person to hear from at this point in the season than a guy who's been through it all.
Bear Heiser: Tell me a little bit about the "Take it to the House" program. Why did you get involved?
Isaac Bruce: Take it to the House is a contest put together by Procter & Gamble (P&G). I chose to get involved because I thought it was a great idea and it was for a good cause.
As you know, P&G created Old Spice, the official deodorant and body wash of the NFL, a product that I've been taking showers with for years. So here's the thing, we have a semifinalist in the St. Louis area named Jessica LeFort. She won a visit from a legendary NFL player, which is myself, and a 10K donation for a local school, which happens to be Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. She also won a year's supply of P&G products and a chance to win a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
For more information on the program and the contest, click here.
Bear: What are your feelings on the Rams' 2010 season? What's the first thing that pops into your head?
Isaac: The NFC West division champs is the first thing that comes to mind. I think they've put themselves in a great position to solidify that and host a home playoff game here in St. Louis for the first time in a long time.
I think they are accomplishing goals that they set back in training camp, and this weekend will be a culmination of it. The guys are excited, and I'm excited for 'em.
Bear: You were able to spend time with Kurt Warner when he first came into the league, any similarities between KW and Sam Bradford?
Isaac: I don't think there are many similarities between the two. The thing that has benefit Sam is that he's been playing in meaningful games for a long time. He had the opportunity to play at Oklahoma, get experience and play in big-time bowl games. The all-around experience he had in college is really paying dividends for him right now in the NFL.
Best of all, he's a big and strong guy, and an accurate passer who can get out of the pocket when protection breaks down.
Bear: Which team do the Rams least want to face in the playoffs?
Isaac: Right now in the playoffs you pretty much have to play the best teams in the league. You can't really avoid anybody this year. I think the hardest out will be the Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick. They are really explosive on offense and good enough on defense to get stops. Any time you cover everybody up on the back end, offensive-wise, you have to deal with Vick running the football. They'll be a tough out for anybody.
Bear: Yeah, the Giants learned that lesson the hard way.
Isaac: They definitely did.
Bear: On the flip side, which team do the Rams want to face in the playoffs?
Isaac: I kind of have to answer that the same way I did before. I mean, when you're facing a playoff team, they have to be considered an elite team. The name of the game in the playoffs is: run the ball and stop the run. On any given Sunday if you can run the ball, keep that clock moving, and score points, you'll keep your defense off the field, nice and rested.
And vice-versa defensively, if you can go out and stop a team's running game, and get that team to be one-dimensional throwing the football, you can start teeing off on the quarterback. You do that and good things happen in the form of interceptions, fumbles and tipped-passes.
So the name of the game in the playoffs is run the ball and stop the run.
*Not really the answer I wanted, but it's ok.
Bear: I recently asked Steven Jackson when he realized the playoffs were a reality for the Rams. He said it was the game against the Saints (Week 14). Does it surprise you that it took and NFL player 14 weeks to think about the possibly of making the postseason?
Isaac: I'm actually not surprised. We're coached and taught not to play the scoreboard. We execute offense, defense and the game plan we're given.
Now at the same time, you don't sit back and look at the rankings in your division every single time. I don't think it's important to pay attention to it because if you're doing what you need to do, execution wise, then Week 14 you should expect to be at the top of the division.
But for better answer you should ask Steven.
Bear: I'm happy with your answer. Moving on, when the Rams drafted you they were still playing in Los Angeles. What's you're impression of football in Southern California?
Isaac: I think football is big, but still growing in LA. Look at the following that the USC Trojans have, and some of the local high schools have as far as football is concerned.
When I played football in Los Angeles, they had two teams playing in the city, so basically you had two teams to cheer for. Now it's been 15 or 16 years since they've had a team. They are missing football and doing everything they can to lure a team or get a new franchise.
When it happens, I won't say if, but when it does happen, I think the city and the county and everyone else in Southern California will jump behind the team and support it the way it should be supported.
Bear: Why is it more dangerous for a receiver to go over the middle today than it was 10 years ago? Or better yet, why is it perceived that way?
Isaac: Guys let the fear element play a huge part in it. There were times that fear would knock on my door when going over the middle, and I'd have to resist that fear and talk myself through it. It got to a point where unconsciously I would have to talk myself through plays and routes that went over the middle and I just dealt with the fear and eventually got rid of it.
I think what's happening now is that we're seeing a lot of young receivers coming out of college who don't have technique. What I mean by that is they don't know how to read a defense. If you don't know how to read a defense, you'll find yourself running through a zone at full speed when you're not supposed to, therefore, you're going to take the brutal, head-over-heels hits that cause concussions.
More teaching needs to be done on the college level to get these guys ready for the pros. That's not an excuse for the pro coaches though. They should be teaching the fundamentals and techniques of the game.
Bear: Do you think the NFL should cap the amount of concussions a player can sustain before coming back to the field?
Isaac: I don't think that would work only because guys are so competitive. Guys will start hiding their injuries which isn't good for the system. I think it will work against the system. Players themselves need to be more conscious of what's going on, and like I said, being taught the fundamentals and the technique of the game can do away with a lot of concussions.
Guys need to be taught how to tackle, not to lead with your head, but with your shoulders instead.
Bear: With that said, do you think the NFL should reconsider switching to an 18-game schedule?
Isaac: You know what, I'd be in favor of it, but I don't think that it (concussions) will deter an 18-game schedule. Even with the addition of two games, these kids still have to be taught the game; they still have to be taught how to read defenses.
One of the biggest examples is Michael Vick right now. He'll sit down and tell you that he knows how to read defenses now. He knows that talent isn't enough; you have to become a student of the game, and know what your routes are running against, and how to attack the defense on every single play.
So, there you have it. Ten minutes with Rams legend Isaac Bruce. Surprised to hear a receiver talk about his fears going over the middle? I sure was, very surprised actually.
Finally, I'd just like to thank Isaac for taking the time to speak candidly about the NFL's current events, as well as Procter & Gamble's "Take it to the House" program.
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