Bruce, young wideouts giving 49ers a boost

Veteran Isaac Bruce, who leads the 49ers in receiving this season, returns this week to the site of his most NFL success. Bruce has given the 49ers what they expected and hoped from him after the St. Louis Rams released him in the offseason. The 49ers, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz, did not take long to snap up Bruce with a two-year, $5.2 million contract.

Bruce is the 49ers' leading receiver with 52 catches for 766 yards and six touchdowns. Last week, Bruce caught four successful third-down passes from quarterback Shaun Hill.

"Shaun Hill trusts him and feels he can go to him when he needs to make a play," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "The way Isaac is playing is unbelievable."

While the spotlight will be on Bruce when he returns to St. Louis, the 49ers continue to be excited about the play -- and the promise -- of some of their young wide receivers.

Veteran Arnaz Battle was placed on injured reserve last week, which means second-year player Jason Hill will finish the season in the role of the No. 3 receiver.

Hill sat most of his rookie season and through the first half of this year, before Battle's foot sprain opened the door for him to see significant action. Hill, a third-round pick in 2007, has 24 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown.

Rookie Josh Morgan emerged as a starter, ahead of veteran Bryant Johnson, but he experienced a setback with a badly strained groin muscle. Morgan is just now working his way back onto the field.

Morgan has missed more than a month with his injury. He has 15 receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns on the year.

First-year player Dominique Zeigler was promoted from the practice squad earlier this season after injuries to Battle and Morgan. He has performed admirably as the No. 4 wideout, and he even tried his hand at returning punts in the 49ers' 14-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday.

"I think they have bright futures," Singletary said.

Singletary gives a lot of credit to receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and Martz for getting the youngsters ready to play in such a complex offensive system.

"Coach Martz has so many offensive plays," Singletary said. "Jerry Sullivan has done a great job working with those young players and helping them understand what it takes to be an NFL receiver, the consistency that it takes."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody in that locker room is professional and they understand that their job is to go out there, play hard, prepare every week and put it all on the line every week. We understand whether we're eliminated or not, we know we have to go play and we're excited to go play." -- 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill

BY THE NUMBERS: Quarterback Shaun Hill has recorded five victories in eight starts with the 49ers over the past two seasons. In games Hill has not started, the 49ers have won five of 22 games.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--- RB DeShaun Foster got his first start of the season in place of injured Frank Gore. Foster entered Sunday's game with 78 yards rushing on 37 carries. He gained 76 yards on 18 rushing attempts Sunday against the Dolphins. He also caught five passes for 25 yards.

--- QB Shaun Hill completed 30 of 46 passing attempts for 233 yards, but was unable to get the 49ers into the end zone, despite leading the team on four drives that lasted at least 10 plays.

--- WR Isaac Bruce had game-high totals of seven receptions for 71 yards against the Dolphins. He has not had fewer than 67 yards receiving in his past four games. Bruce converted third downs on four of his receptions against the Dolphins.

--- WR Arnaz Battle was placed on injured reserve after aggravating a mid-foot sprain. Before Battle left the lineup in the eighth game of the season, Battle was the team's leader among wideouts with 24 receptions for 318 yards.

--- RB Thomas Clayton, a second-year practice-squad player for the 49ers, was promoted to the active roster against the Miami Dolphins because of Frank Gore's ankle injury. Clayton did not see any action in the game.


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