Concentration is not usually a problem for the sure-handed B.C. Lions slotback, but that changed somewhat after he suffered a concussion in September against Saskatchewan that kept him sidelined for five games.
Now he says he's fit and he will suit up Sunday as the Lions host the Calgary Stampeders for the right to play in the Grey Cup.
"I've been ready for about two weeks now," said Bruce as the Lions convened for a meeting at their Surrey, B.C., practice facility Monday. "So I'm looking forward to this opportunity to get back on the field with my troops and getting back to Toronto (for the Grey Cup.)"
Bruce was injured Sept. 29 as his helmet hit the turf in Regina following a collision with Roughriders defensive back Milt Collins. Bruce did not attend a home game the following weekend against the Stampeders because noise and bright lights bothered him.
Now he is looking forward to making up for two games that he missed against Calgary during the regular season, including a humiliating 41-21 setback on Oct. 26.
The 34-year-old Kansas City, Kan., native took a cautious approach with his recovery from his first career head injury.
"You have to take it seriously, man, because only you know, going through a concussion, how you really feel and if you can really function and comprehend what's going on," Bruce said. "I have been in a situation where I thought I had cracked ribs. I said I'm okay and played through it. But you're dealing with your head and the things that help you function."
Bruce declared himself fit a day after Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate took a hit on the head in Sunday's come-from-behind victory over Saskatchewan in the Western Semifinal. Tate told TSN at halftime that he could not remember what happened in the first two quarters of play.
But he continued playing anyway.
Bruce, who went through an extensive concussion protocol before returning to practice, noted concussions affect players individually. He pointed to the examples of Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who missed most of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 NHL seasons, and Lions teammate Marco Iannuzzi, who only missed two games when he was injured this season.
Bruce said he hopes Tate is "doing the right thing as a person — not even about football," and added a full examination of his injury may deter the Calgary quarterback's plan to play.
"When you get (players) when they're not playing, their adrenalin's not going, and you've got the process, it's a different test," Bruce said.
Bruce prepared for the West final by participating in the warmup prior to B.C.'s victory over Saskatchewan in the regular-season finale for both clubs. Lions coach Mike Benevides said he has done a great job of trying to get ready for the Stamps, who lost two of three meetings with the Lions during the regular season.
"He's handled it about as good as you can," said Benevides.
Before he was injured, Bruce caught 43 passes for 603 yards and five touchdowns. Benevides indicated there is little doubt that Bruce is ready to help the Lions attempt to claim their third win in four meetings with Calgary this year.
"You just see himself being himself," Benevides said. "You see the speed, you see the energy, you see the fact that he's missed the game, you see the leadership and the veteran coming out and understanding that, hey, this is when it really counts for a guy who's been around so long."
The coach said the 11-year CFL veteran's presence in the lineup will be hugely important as the Lions attempt to defend their 2011 Grey Cup title. Benevides says the Lions are a challenging team to cover with Bruce in the lineup.
Benevides noted Bruce helped turn the team's fortunes around last season when he arrived in a trade from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Lions started the season 0-5 and were 1-6 before Bruce got accustomed to the offence, but then the team took off and finished 11-7.
"He's going to make the big catches," Benevides said. "He's been there before. He knows how important it is. He's made those plays. There's a tremendous amount of confidence that he's going to do that."
Bruce said Benevides, who will work his first playoff game as a head coach Sunday, is fuelling the club's engine.
"I think we're going to go off the energy of the coach," said Bruce. "Coach B's been high energy all last week, all season, and I think we're feeding off his energy right now. His energy is extremely high right now. I'm glad to be part of this team right now."
Notes: Lions receiver Geroy Simon, who was rested in the final regular-season game and has missed other contests with a hamstring injury, is also expected to play Sunday.