The 16-year veteran didn't allow a sack for a playoff team with a 12-4 record.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
What a difference six victories can make.
Just ask 49ers left guard Ray Brown, who has been voted to his first Pro Bowl game after not allowing a sack for the second consecutive season.
Speaking by telephone from the 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., the 39-year-old Brown agreed that playing well for a 12-4 playoff team might have improved his recognition factor with the Pro Bowl voters.
"I was somewhat stunned," Brown said of his reaction to last week's announcement that he had earned his first trip to Hawaii in his 16-year career.
"It hasn't completely sunk it as yet," said the offensive lineman who joined the 49ers in 1996 after seven years with the Washington Redskins and three with the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals.
"We have an important playoff game [at Green Bay] coming up this Sunday and it's hard to concentrate on anything else.
"The honor is a crowning moment for me individually," said Brown who sat out the Redskins 1991 Super Bowl season as well as the 1992 season with an injured elbow.
"There have been frustrations along the way and this sort of soothes those problems that I had before," said Brown, who played lineman and tight end at Arkansas State.
One of 12: Because of a salary cap purge, Brown is one of just 12 players from the 1999 playoff team still on the roster.
Although the team lacks playoff-tested veterans, Brown said he's been impressed by how so many of his young teammates have matured into leaders.
"During the rebuilding, the growing process, unfortunately, was bumpy," Brown said.
But because the offensive line was intact from last year, Brown said he sensed during the spring mini-camps that dramatic improvement was in the air.
"Having all our offensive linemen back gave us a level of continuity we haven't enjoyed for a while," Brown said. "The way we practice and prepare, even in the mini-camps, you could tell we weren't rag-tag anymore.
"Our young guys sort of converted really fast into veterans," Brown said.
"Tuesday is our off day, but you can find over half our young guys in here working. They are self-motivated to want to become better."
Big Impact: Brown said the return of free agent defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield after three seasons with the Redskins has made a big impact.
"Returning to something comfortable can really energize a player. Dana and [defensive tackle] Bryant Young make a great tandem."
For the 49ers to succeed Sunday, Brown knows he will have his hands full trying to keep Packers defenders Gilbert Brown, Santana Dotson and Vonnie Holliday out of quarterback Jeff Garcia's face.
"It will be hard to get out of there sack-less," said Brown, who added that the Packers excel because they have a "rotation of eight or nine guys who are real versatile."
No matter what happens, Brown said he's grateful to make another postseason appearance.
"This is truly huge," Brown said. "What we went through the past two seasons in our rebuilding mode makes me very appreciative to have this opportunity."