Singletary: Niners WR Bruce could play vs. Rams, his former team

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Isaac Bruce's final NFL game might be back in the very place where he spent his most productive years.

Mike Singletary said Wednesday that Bruce's fellow San Francisco 49ers wide receivers approached the coach to say they wanted the 16-year NFL veteran to play in this weekend's season finale at St. Louis.

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Josh Morgan, who replaced Bruce in the 49ers' starting lineup earlier this season, went to Singletary's office Monday and made the case that the veteran deserved this chance.

"You know what? I was kind of surprised, but if it had been me, I don't know, I don't think I would have done it," Bruce said in a rare interview. "I'm a football player, and I believe in players earning the right to play. I believe that if one player is better than the other, the best player should play at the time."

Bruce has been inactive for the past five contests and six in all for San Francisco (7-8), which is looking to end a franchise-worst stretch of six consecutive losing seasons. He said it would be great to play again, but he doesn't want it to be an honorary thing in which he disrupts the chemistry of the 49ers' offense.

"I had asked him earlier what his thoughts were on possibly playing in the game, if he thought about it or whatever," Singletary said Wednesday. "And he said, 'Possibly not.' Then, when I told him about his teammates asking me and inquiring about it, I think it was shocking to him. I'm excited about him finishing the way he should finish."

Singletary called it a "very good chance" that Bruce would be on the field. While Bruce said he hasn't decided for sure whether he will retire after the season, he expects to make an announcement soon.

Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowl pick during his 14 seasons with the Rams.

"As far as this being my last game, maybe," Bruce told reporters in St. Louis. "Probably about 75 percent sure. There's that 25 percent, though."

Bruce has developed a reputation for his quiet, stay-to-himself demeanor but also a tireless work ethic and selfless approach when it comes to helping out young players and leading by example.

Bruce knows there will be some sentimental feelings with him being back in St. Louis this weekend. That's always the case for him.

"Going back to St. Louis is always special for me," Bruce said. "It gives me a chance to see the guys that run the dome. It gives me another opportunity to look at the banners and the rafters and just have some of the memories that I had when I was playing there with some of my former teammates."

Whether Bruce agreed with the gesture or not, Morgan figured it was the right thing to do for someone who has given so much of his time and expertise to the young players.

"It's bigger than that," said Morgan, who offered up his starting spot for Bruce on Sunday. "He's just an awesome influence. He's been a mentor, a friend -- he's everything coach Singletary wants. ... I was asking him 20, 30 questions a day last year. He's been like a coach on the field."

The Rams, who lost 35-0 at San Francisco on Oct. 4, believe Bruce will be well received Sunday at Edward Jones Dome -- a venue the receiver still loves.

"He'll go down as one of the greatest receivers of all time," said defensive end Leonard Little, a teammate of Bruce's on St. Louis' Super Bowl champion team in 1999. "Obviously he's a Hall of Fame player, and he's proven that over the years. If this is his last year, he deserves to at least have a chance to show his face or be around the fans that have been with him most of his career."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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