Niners have new 'beep' champion

In a huge upset, the Niners' first spring minicamp of 2003 came to a close Sunday with reserve QB Brandon Doman the last man standing - or, in this case, still running - at the finish of the team's annual endurance 'beep' test. Doman ended defending champion Jeff Garcia's three-year reign in the event by lasting 120 beeps, but - in perhaps an even bigger surprise - it wasn't Garcia who pushed Doman to the end. "I'm probably a little crazy when it comes to competition," Doman said. "I like win."

Like last year, Garcia and Doman were among the last few players still going after a handful of survivors - the strongest of the 90-some players who started the competition - dropped out around 100 beeps. The team's annual rite of spring is an endurance test which has players jogging to and from cones in 20-yard intervals while keeping pace with a beep that increases incrementally.

When cornerbacks Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph finally pulled up, Garcia and Doman still were going strong next to each other in what looked to be a carbon-copy finish of last year. Drawing not nearly as much attention on an opposite corner of the field was third-year tight end Eric Johnson, who was the only other player still going.

Nobody expected him to outlast the quarterbacks, who were by now drawing a crowd of spectators. But, as the intensity began to build, Garcia slipped while planting his foot to turn around after the 111th beep. He initially burst to catch up with Doman, but then - to the surprise of those who have seen him win this thing in recent years - pulled out of the competition when he reached the next turnaround.

"Jeff's pretty dang mentally tough," Doman said. "I know he's been in better shape for a beep test before. If Jeff really wanted it, he obviously would have worked harder. He wasn't totally conditioned for it like the past few years, but he battled. I've been nursing a head cold for a week, so when Jeff went down I decided I'm going out right then and I stopped. All of a sudden, everybody started yelling that Eric Johnson was still running, so I had to sprint to the next (cone)."

The competition is not designed for big men such as the 256-pound Johnson, but he still was going strong after Garcia fell out.

But not as strong as Doman. Johnson finally pulled up panting after 119 beeps, and the competition ended when Doman turned a cone after the 120th beep.

"I probably had five or 10 more (beeps) in me," said Doman, who lasted 119 beeps last year as a rookie before stopping to see Garcia win after 120 beeps. "I was feeling pretty good. I just figure this drill is mind over matter. If you're in shape, your body can do it. It's just whether you can talk yourself into it. I know it's going to hurt like crazy. You just have be in shape and talk yourself into gassing it to the end."

Coach Dennis Erickson, taking part in his first minicamp with the Niners, laughed when asked how many beeps he would last.

"I don't know that I'll ever find out how long I can go on it," Erickson said. "I might try it privately and just tell you. But it's an interesting test. I've never seen that before."

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