How Isaac Bruce helped Mose Frazier's chances to make the Panthers

Mose Frazier has played in parts of two seasons with the Panthers but has yet to make his first regular-season catch. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mose Frazier’s first memory of Isaac Bruce was his 73-yard, game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl XXXIV with 1:54 remaining.

Frazier, now 25, was 7.

The Carolina Panthers wide receiver went to the same school -- Memphis, in Frazier's hometown in Tennessee -- and he met the former Tigers star for a brief handshake after a 2015 game against Ole Miss.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks before offseason workouts began last month that Frazier truly had an appreciation for the 46-year-old Bruce, whose 15,208 receiving yards rank fifth on the NFL’s all-time list among wide receivers and sixth overall.

“Basically, I learned how to deal with the mental part of the game as well as the physical part," Frazier said of training with Bruce for a week. “He talked to me about how he did things, the way he approached the game. I took some of the information right back with me and applied it to my game."

Frazier’s agent, Brian Parker, set up the session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Bruce lives. He wanted Frazier to pick the future Hall of Famer’s brain the way Bruce did from veterans such as Henry Ellard and Jessie Hester when Bruce came into the league in 1994 as a second-round pick.

Bruce believes more players should take advantage of guidance from retired players because of strict rules under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement that restrict offseason involvement with team coaches.

“To be honest, he’s been missing a lot of coaching, not only on the professional level but the college level as well," Bruce said of Frazier. “Coaches just don’t have the time spend with players like they did when I was playing.

“Just to share some things with Mose, it kind of opened his eyes, which was my goal. It helped him build an identity as a receiver."

When Bruce played, from 1994 to 2009, players began offseason workouts as early as February. They had contact with coaches and teammates at the team facility.

Since the CBA was renegotiated in 2011, that time is limited to nine weeks, and two of those are strength and conditioning, without coaches. Players are forced to work out on their own and participate in activities away from the facility.

When Bruce played, there also was more time for players to learn in training camp.

“For the majority of my career, when we were at training camp, our first 35 practices were against each other," Bruce said. “We didn’t see a preseason game until after those 35 practices. So we were forced to repeat things over and over again.

“I believe repetition is key. They don’t get that. They have to play their first preseason game seven days after camp starts. The development part is missing."

Carolina coach Ron Rivera, who played linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984 to 1992, agreed that the CBA keeps young players such as Frazier from getting additional individual attention.

“There is some concern some of us tend to go overboard as coaches and demand guys do too much during the offseason," he said. “But I do think we’re missing the opportunity to improve the play of our players by being able to get around them.

“What it has done is force guys to go get help."

Panthers tackle Daryl Williams in past offseasons has worked with Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater. Backup quarterback Kyle Allen spent time this offseason working with fellow second-year QBs Josh Allen (Bills) and Sam Darnold (Jets) at Jordan Palmer’s quarterback camp.

“In the offseason, you have to stay on the mental stuff yourself," Allen said. “There are a lot of specialized coaches out there who are realizing there’s a market for this. People that can take advantage of this are going to springboard themselves into training camp."

Bruce said Frazier learned more about getting open and creating separation, something he believes Carolina receivers have been missing since Ricky Proehl stepped down as the receivers coach after the 2016 seasons.

“It was more mental than anything physical," said Bruce, who played with Proehl on the Rams. “Just having that identity and rehearsing the identity.

“I felt my longevity in the league was based on what I knew with what I could do. [Frazier] left Florida with that."

When asked about his biggest NFL moment, Frazier didn’t hesitate.

“The next play, honestly," he said.

Frazier’s biggest plays to date are touchdowns scored in preseason games. He doesn’t have a catch in two regular-season games.

Now he’s battling for a spot on a roster that already includes 2018 first-round pick DJ Moore, 2017 second-round pick Curtis Samuel, free-agent signee Chris Hogan, veterans Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright, and 2019 seventh-round pick Terry Godwin.

Frazier (5-11, 190) knows he’s an underdog, but he’s used to that. He has bounced from Denver to Buffalo to San Francisco since going undrafted in 2016.

He originally walked on at Memphis and was a practice player his first season. He went on to earn the school's Isaac Bruce Offensive Player of the Year Award as a senior after catching 70 passes for 797 yards and four touchdowns.

“I’ve always had to work my way up from the bottom," Frazier said. “Starting off in ninth grade, not playing varsity right off the bat. I always had that mentality [that] I’m going to get there at some point."

Time with one of the greatest receivers in NFL history might have increased his chances of getting there with the Panthers.

“He’s tough. He’s athletic. He’s cerebral," Bruce said. “The only thing lacking is the development. It’s unfortunate. If you’re a first-round draft pick, they’re going to give you chance after chance to get it right. If you’re a guy in Mose’s position, you may not have those opportunities.

“So it’s important for guys like him to flash early in training camp. If I get him to make that flash, then he can relax and play."