NFL@L.A.: San Francisco 49ers

Isaac Bruce reflects on his days in L.A.

February, 4, 2012
2/04/12
7:45
AM PT
Jackie Slater never won a Super Bowl during his 20-year career in the NFL with the Los Angeles and later St. Louis Rams. The closest he came to a ring was in Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in front of a record crowd of 103,985 at the Rose Bowl.

Slater hopes his family will finally get its first Super Bowl ring this Sunday when his son, Matthew, a wide receiver, safety and special teamer for the New England Patriots takes the field against the New York Giants.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Bruce
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireIsaac Bruce
As much as Slater would like to see himself in his son, he admits that he reminds him of one of his favorite players and teammates.

“If you were to ask my son who is favorite player was, it won’t be me, or Randy Moss, who he played with or Wes Welker, who he plays with, his favorite player is, always has been and always will be Isaac Bruce,” Slater said. “He respected Isaac Bruce. Not only the way he competed as a player but the way he conducted himself off the field.

Isaac Bruce is a guy that I want my son to play like.”

THE LAST LINK

Isaac Bruce, who turned 39 in November, looks like he could still play in the NFL as he sits down in the lobby of his Fort Lauderdale condominium in a track suit after a morning workout.

Bruce, who retired from the NFL before the 2010 season, was the last player to have played in the NFL on either the Los Angeles Rams or the Los Angeles Raiders. Both teams left Los Angeles in 1995. There are currently no current players in the NFL who played on an NFL team in Los Angeles.

In fact, the 17-year gap is so large now, that in the case of Slater, some those former players’ sons are now playing in the league.

“I knew I was the last Los Angeles Ram playing,” Bruce said. “I didn’t know I was the last guy who played for a Los Angeles team that was still in the NFL. I knew Wayne Gandy was with me and after he retired I figured, well, I must be the last one. I guess I was carrying the torch for the city of Los Angeles until my retirement. I had a marvelous, phenomenal time out there.”

While Bruce played all but one season of his 16-year NFL career in Los Angeles, he still considers the city his home away from.

He first arrived in Los Angeles as a 17-year-old kid with two duffle bags and the hope of playing college football after being overlooked by Miami, Florida and Florida State.

Bruce would play at West Los Angeles College and then Santa Monica College before transferring to Memphis in 1992. He can still rattle off street names, bus stops and restaurants around Los Angeles as he sits in his home 2,800 miles away.

“When I go back to L.A., it’s funny because I still see the busses and I know exactly where they’re going,” Bruce said. “I lived on Arbor Vitae Street and I would catch the bus right at the bus depot next to the airport. It brings back so many memories. I would walk to the rental car center, which wasn’t far from my place and they would take me to the airport. I would catch the six bus that goes to Culver City and I would take that bus to the Fox Hill Mall and that would take me to West L.A. My second year I could get on the three bus that goes on Lincoln and takes you all the way to Santa Monica and Pico and I would go to school in the morning and come home the same way.”

When Bruce returns to Los Angeles, he still goes to the rental car station next to his old dorm off of Arbor Vitae at Northrop University and eats his first meal at D&K Drive-In, which was where he ate most of his meals.

“I don’t think the owners there recognize me because when I was 17 when I would be there so much,” Bruce said. “But I go down there and sit down and it’s amazing. That’s where I first started.”

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Wrap-up: 49ers 34, Rams 27

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
2:21
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Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams during their Week 17 game at the Edward Jones Dome, a 34-27 victory for San Francisco:

What it means: The 49ers played to win in securing the NFC's second seed in the playoffs and the first-round bye that goes along with it. Securing the bye was hugely important for the 49ers given their injury situation. Coach Jim Harbaugh showed how much this game meant to the team. He allowed Patrick Willis to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury. He approved a fake field goal when the 49ers led by 10 points late in the third quarter. The 49ers needed to play well because the Rams put together a furious comeback -- a potential last stand for coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams emerged with the No. 2 overall choice in the 2012 draft when Indianapolis also lost.

What I liked: Both teams played aggressively to win. Even the interception St. Louis threw on an ill-fated trick play showed Spagnuolo wasn't going to go quietly in what could have been his final game. The 49ers adjusted to their personnel issues by making Vernon Davis a bigger part of the passing game. Davis topped 100 yards. The fake field goal they executed was brilliant for the way it tricked the Rams into overlooking Michael Crabtree's presence on the field as a wide receiver. The Rams, meanwhile, put up a great fight in coming back from a 27-10 deficit even though they lost Steven Jackson to injury. Kicker Josh Brown provided a perfect onside kick that the Rams recovered. Third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens found Brandon Lloyd for the touchdown that pulled St. Louis within 34-27. And the 49ers, though reeling in the final minutes, came through with the defensive play they needed when NaVorro Bowman sacked Clemens and knocked him from the game with a leg injury at the 2:46 mark.

What I didn't like: Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks showed great promise in training camp, but his regular-season struggles continued in this game. The pass Kendricks dropped near the first-down marker with 6:15 left in the first half left the Rams in a third-and-10 situation. They fumbled the snap on their next play, setting up the 49ers to stretch their lead from 17-7 to 20-7. The 49ers gave up a rushing touchdown for the second week in a row. Willis, playing for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury Dec. 4, could not get around Rams tight end Stephen Spach when Jackson broke through the line for a 27-yard gain. The injury to Clemens was horribly unfortunate, but also an indication of the protection problems the Rams have had all season. The 49ers' defense, though facing the most limited offense in the NFL, blew a chance to set a franchise record for lowest points per game allowed. They needed to allow 15 or fewer points to break the 1976 team's NFL-era franchise record. They needed to allow 13 or fewer points to break the all-time franchise record, set in the AAFC era.

What's next: The 49ers have a week off before playing in the NFC divisional playoff round. That game will be at Candlestick Park. The Rams hold the second overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
536 359 3995 31
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
B. Oliver 146 511 3.5 2
R. Mathews 74 330 4.5 3
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Floyd 49 827 16.9 6
K. Allen 77 783 10.2 4