By CAM INMAN

Contra Costa Times


SANTA CLARA - At 275 pounds, fullback Brian Johnson wasn't hard to miss Monday in his first practice with the *****, who signed him to help compensate for the short-term loss of starting fullback Fred Beasley to an ankle sprain.

Johnson has played the past two seasons in the Arena Football League with the San Jose SaberCats. But it wasn't until this season that he changed from being an offensive and defensive lineman to a fullback and a linebacker.

''I had a solid Arena season, and winning the (Arena Bowl) championship definitely helped,'' Johnson said. He changed positions prior to this past season after reporting in better shape than the 305 pounds he once found himself carrying.

When he worked out for the SaberCats in 2002, Johnson said he also worked out for the *****. He worked out again last week for the *****, who called on him to help at fullback where Beasley is expected out for four weeks and Jasen Isom (knee) another week.

Johnson was a starting defensive end at the University of New Mexico, where he also played some tight end. ''The position I'm playing now is my favorite,'' Johnson said. ''The reason is it's taken me the farthest.''

Sitting out|

Beasley (left ankle), free safety Dwaine Carpenter (left knee), defensive tackle Michael Landry (left forearm laceration), linebacker Brandon Moore (right hamstring) and guard Scott Rehberg (lower back) joined nine other regulars on the no-practice list. Among those also sitting out were center Jeremy Newberry (right knee), wide receiver Rashaun Woods (right hamstring) and defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga (lower back). Unsure when Woods will return, ***** coach Dennis Erickson said Sopoaga could be back next week, adding: ''He's big and strong, but he hasn't played much. It's crucial he gets out here.''

Rattay practices|

Quarterback Tim Rattay returned from a two-week layoff and practiced, but in very limited fashion as he didn't throw any passes and simply worked on taking snaps and handing off to running backs.

Extra points

Although Cody Pickett took snaps as the second-string quarterback in two-minute drills Monday, Erickson said Pickett will remain behind Brandon Doman and probable starter Ken Dorsey in the quarterback rotation for Saturday's exhibition game at Chicago.

• Defensive tackle Anthony Adams returned to practice after sitting out the past two weeks with a sprained right ankle.

• To make room for Johnson, the club released wide receiver Wendall Williams for the second time this camp.

• Former ***** running back Roger Craig will be signing his new book, ''Tales from the *****' Sideline,'' on Wednesday at The Booksmith (1644 Haight Street) in San Francisco from 7 to 9 p.m.