Beasley finally a Pro Bowler

Fred Beasley agonized Thursday morning in the 49ers locker room as coach Dennis Erickson announced the list of Niners who had been named to the Pro Bowl. "Terrell Owens ... Julian Peterson ... " the coach started slowly, before saying, "Fullback..." When Beasley heard that word, "I almost flipped over my chair," he said. And with that, Beasley's long Pro Bowl wait was over. And with that, his teammates showered upon him a standing ovation - and not just any complimentary standing ovation.

"It was a long standing ovation," Beasley said. "It went for 45, 50 seconds. I knew my team was behind me, but I didn't realize how many guys were pulling for me. I think they were more happy for me than I was."

But that's not entirely true. The happiest person to hear the news in that room had to be Beasley. He'd been overlooked for years come Pro Bowl time, even though he has gained recognition in recent seasons as being perhaps the NFL's best true fullback.

"It does take the burn off knowing that you are appreciated by players, coaches and fans," Beasley said. "I had got to the point where I didn't care no more. I mean, I do care. But three years ago, I thought I would make it, and it was very disappointing."

The same has been true the past two seasons, which arguably were the best of Beasley's six-year career with the Niners.

Despite his prowess as a blocker in San Francisco's powerful running game, and the supporting role he has played as a rusher and receiver, Beasley had been relegated to first-alternate status in Pro Bowl voting the past two years behind Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott.

Alstott, a featured rusher in Tampa Bay's attack, generally is considered a fullback in name only. Nonetheless, he had been the NFC's representative at fullback in each of the previous six seasons. Alstott was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury in October, opening the way for Beasley's selection.

Beasley will be joined in Hawaii this year by teammates Owens and Peterson. San Francisco center Jeremy Newberry and defensive tackle Bryant Young - both Pro Bowl selections each of the past two seasons - were named as second-alternates at their positions this year.

"Fred is someone I've felt all along that has played as well as any (fullback) or better," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "He probably has for years, at least the past few years. If you sit down and watch his productivity of what he does at the position, it would be (a no-brainer). I'm sure for the linebackers in the league, it's pretty easy to see."

San Francisco ranks second in the league in rushing offense since Beasley joined the team in 1998. The 49ers are fourth in NFL rushing this season with Beasley paving the way for the tailback tandem of Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, who have combined for 1,598 rushing yards.

As far as numbers are concerned, this has been Beasley's least-productive season since he became a starter. He has rushed 16 times for just 20 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown on the ground. He has caught 16 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown.

"It is kind of ironic," said Beasley, a second-team All-Pro selection last year. "I don't consider this one of my best seasons. I wasn't able to knock guys out or get a lot of pancakes (blocks) this year like I normally do because guys watch tape of me and they know how to take me on now. But it was enough to get me over to Hawaii. It was a long, anticipated wait."

Owens' numbers also are down from the previous three seasons, but a strong surge in the past two months has lifted him to fifth in NFC receiving with 78 catches for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns.

He becomes the first 49er selected to four straight Pro Bowls since quarterback Steve Young was named seven consecutive seasons from 1992-98.

"It really doesn't surprise me," Owens said. "I expect to make it every year. Especially with the way the offense is geared."

Peterson's second straight selection came a day after he was voted by teammates as the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, the 49ers' top annual individual honor.

"The only thing I'm waiting on is the Nobel Peace Prize next," Peterson joked.

Peterson, the new leader of the 49ers' rising defense, is on course to have one of the best all-around seasons ever by a San Francisco defender. He enters Sunday's game in Philadelphia second on the team in tackles (133), sacks (5.5) and passes defensed (12). He also has three forced fumbles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

"Last year, I kind of snuck up on people," Peterson said. "This year, I was focused to live up to expectations, get better and step up to another level."


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