They celebrated in their morning team meeting when it was announced quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Terrell Owens each made it for the second year in a row and defensive tackle Bryant Young made it for the third time in his career.
But when coach Steve Mariucci announced that running back Garrison Hearst and offensive guard Ray Brown also had been chosen, there was more than just celebration. There was a standing ovation.
"It was emotional in a sense," Garcia said. "There was a lot of excitement from the team." While Garcia, Owens and Young - the team's core of stars - each have Pro Bowls behind them and probably more ahead of them, Brown was chosen for the first time in his 16-year career while Hearst was selected after missing the past two seasons with a career-threatening ankle injury.
"We're happy for everybody, but the two that were just special were Ray Brown and Garrison Hearst," Mariucci said.
Brown had played at a Pro Bowl level for several seasons, but always was overlooked at year's end. Not this time. The oldest player on the team at 39, he once again has been a huge force on the line in a running game that ranks second in the NFL and passing game that has protected Garcia well.
Hearst, Garcia and Owens all benefited from Brown's blocking, and all three rank among the NFC leaders in their departments. Garcia is the NFL's fourth-rated quarterback with a 91.4 rating and has thrown for 3,275 yards and 28 touchdowns. Hearst is fifth in the conference with 1,149 yards rushing while Owens is fourth with 91 receptions for 1,296 yards and leads the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns.
"Being successful in this offense kind of speaks for itself," Owens said. "The things that we do kind of put us in the running for the Pro Bowl bid."
The Niners are one of five teams that will send five players to the 52nd rendition of the AFC-NFC All-Star game, which will be played Feb. 9 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens, with six selections each, will send more. It's the most selections the Niners have had since San Francisco also had five players named to the NFC squad in 1998.
"That's more Pro Bowlers than we've had around here in the last couple of years," Mariucci said. "We're happy for all these guys. They're all well-deserved." Fullback Fred Beasley and center Jeremy Newberry, both fourth-year players, were named as alternates, as was second-year cornerback Ahmed Plummer.