Big outing makes Bruce a happy man
Tops 1,000 yards for an eighth time

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce can still make an opposing defense pay the price for double-teaming teammate Torry Holt.

Bruce had nine catches for 148 yards and one touchdown in the Rams' 37-30 win over Washington Redskins on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

Bruce's best outing since a nine-catch, 170-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers in 2004 pushed him over the 1,000-yard plateau in receiving for the eighth time in his 12 seasons in the NFL.

"He got over 100, he got his 1,000," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said of the 34-year-old Bruce. "They were doubling Torry, and it left him one-on-one. I think Isaac has proven that he is still a pretty good receiver."

True to form, Bruce downplayed his performance, saying he had more fun against the Oakland Raiders the previous week when he had only three catches for 58 yards than he did against the Redskins.

"I had fun Sunday," Bruce said. "I had more fun the previous Sunday. It was more fun being in California. It was a great game. I'm happy it turned out our way."

Bruce was more thrilled about being named the Rams' Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award that recognized his off-the-field work in the community as well as his on-the-field accomplishments.

Each NFL team nominates one player who they feel best exemplifies the philanthropic spirit of the Chicago Bears' Hall of Fame running back.

"It's truly an honor with Walter Payton being named for that award," Bruce said." I think it's a testament to the way my father raised me, the way my mother raised me. It's an honor to my family and my background."

Bruce recently started the Isaac Bruce Foundation, a fund for the Institute of Health and Science that focuses on health and education. He also hosts a free football clinic for kids in the St. Louis area each year.

"I'm a guy that just so happens to play football," Bruce said. "Character is important to me. Not saying that we won't go through tests and trials in our lifetime, but I do believe that the way people deal with them is what truly marks the measure of a person."

Bruce said he's not surprised that the Rams are still in the playoff hunt despite being 6-8 two weeks ago. He said new coach Scott Linehan has brought a positive spirit that has taken hold in the locker room.

"With Coach Linehan coming in, he's a very positive guy," Bruce said. "He's putting some food for thought into guys who normally wouldn't get it anywhere else. I believe it is taking hold on them and they're believing. All things are possible if you believe."

Bruce said he was looking forward to the Rams' game against the Minnesota Vikings at noon Sunday at the Metrodome.

"It's a nice challenge for us, going into a hostile territory and having an opportunity to play a good team with a good defense that is pretty good at stopping the run," Bruce said.

The Vikings are ranked No. 1 vs. run in the NFL, but they're 32nd among the NFL's 32 teams in pass defense.

"You just look at the front seven," Bruce said of why the Vikings are so good against the run. "Their front seven plays tremendously well. They have two big guys up front (6-foot-5, 311-pound Kevin Williams and 6-foot-3, 317-pound Pat Williams) who can stop the run. Their linebackers are the biggest playmakers on the team. They get after the quarterback pretty well. They get after the ballcarrier."

Despite their problems defending the pass, Bruce has a lot of respect for Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield.

"Winfield is a good player in my book," Bruce said. " I've watched from the time he was in Buffalo. (He's) a smaller guy, but he's a guy who probably will end up at safety before his career is done. He's a good cover guy, a guy who will come up and stick you and make a lot of tackles. As far as his tackling is concerned, he kind of reminds me of Todd Lyght back in the days. He's a guy who prides himself in tackling anybody with the football. In this day and time, most cornerbacks don't want to tackle, but he does a good job of it."

Linehan said it's important for Bruce to step up when opposing teams are focusing on containing Holt.

"It's really big," Linehan said. "It was really obvious last week that he was going to get some good looks. When you're seeing the double coverage and going to the other guy, the other guy has to produce. Isaac has produced his whole career. I think it takes a lot of pressure off not just Torry, but helps in getting good looks in the running game as well."

Bruce said he's not offended when opposing teams underestimate his abilities.

"I don't waste any of my sleep on it," Bruce said. "Just when the opportunities present themselves, I take advantage of them."

By Steve Korte

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For more information on the Isaac Bruce Foundation call 314-369-4074.