Stoic and taciturn, Isaac Bruce made his first public comments of the offseason. As you'll recall, Bruce was iffy about returning to the 49ers early in the offseason. After all, the coach with whom he'd enjoyed tremendous success, Mike Martz, was released in January and Bruce will turn 37 this season. Retirement seemed like a real possibility. Bruce made his first practice appearance this spring earlier this week at OTAs. Here are a few select quotes ...
What's your impression of Jimmy Raye's offense?
IB: I'm impressed. I see areas where we can grow and become a really good offense.
Whether it's a hard offense to pick up.
IB: Not at all ... pretty easy.
On why he returned?
IB: To win a Super Bowl and ... get in the playoffs again and win a Super Bowl.
Why he feels that optimistic about the 49ers this season.
IB: The parity of the NFL. I was 4-12 one year, and the following year I won a Super Bowl. So, past experience ...
On whether he was disappointed Martz was let go.
IB: From a friend's standpoint I was. But as far as playing in another offense ... I mean, I've played in offenses where Mike Martz was not in the building, so it's possible play without coach Martz. But as a friend, I miss him that way."
On former Rams teammate Dre Bly:
IB: Well, he's a gambler on the corner. And that's the kind of cornerback you need in this league - somebody that's going to make sure a quarterback and a receiver and an offense is not going to throw in front of him, you know, three quarters of a game and just let it be that way. The guy will definitely take chances, and the chances that he takes - he makes plays. He's always made plays."
On the 49ers slecting Michael Crabtree:
IB: I was in a whole other mindset when that happened. So I didn't have any thoughts on it.
On the overall quality of the receivers.
IB: Well, the numbers are high. We have eleven guys. I guess we'll end up with five. It'll be interesting to see who rises to the front.
Can you tell that the WR talent-level is different?
IB: Not really. I haven't been here long enough to see. So I can't give you an honest answer on that.
Patrick Willis also has high expectation this season. Willis said he was confident the 49ers will have a top 10 defense this year, perhaps Top 5 and maybe, just maybe, No. 1 overall. After all, Willis and his defensive mates are in Year Three of the same defense. He also says that coach Greg Manusky has been asking Willis and his mates to ease off a bit during spring sessions against the offense. "I'd rather him say, 'You all need to ease down a little bit' than 'You need to pick it up.'"
Here are some notes from today's practice ....
The team is a tad short on strong safeties. Second-year player Reggie Smith is out with a groin injury suffered in yesterday's afternoon session while Mark Roman is ill. (it's not pneumonia). Both Lewis Baker and rookie Curtis Taylor, who heretofore had been playing free safety, filled in today.
Alex Smith again led the first-team offense during the morning practice. Earlier in the practice Smith looked very sharp during the WR vs. CB portion. Of course, there's no pass rush and the receivers have a big advantage, but Smith's throws were accurate and weren't sailing as they have in the past.
The best catch of the day? How about Delanie Walker's one-handed snag of a Shaun Hill pass on the sideline. It was about a 20-yard pass.
Cornerback Dre Bly showed that gambling nature Bruce was talking about. During seven-on-seven drills, he slid in front of a receiver and nearly came up with an interception of Hill's pass. Later he outdueled receiver Maurice Price on the sideline and nearly had an interception.
With Jason Hill nursing a hamstring strain, Domique Zeigler was playing the "X" position while Josh Morgan was at "Z." Raye said after practice that he needs to see his receivers at all three positions - X, Z and slot - in order to compose the 53-man roster. The more you can do ...
Tight ends coach Pete Hoener ripped into Bear Pascoe during blocking drills, urging - with a few choice words - the rookie to drop his hips more when blocking. Something for Pascoe to consider: Hoener used to get after Vernon Davis in the same way. Now Davis is the star pupil in this drill and one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.
-- Matt Barrows