Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Akers auditions for role he once owned

Former Pro Bowler battles Cundiff for 49ers kicking job

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- David Akers spent Thursday auditioning for the job he has held the past two seasons under the watchful eyes of coach Jim Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke and special teams co-ordinator Brad Seely.

It's a far cry from last season at this time, when Akers was basking in a record-setting season and a selection to the Pro Bowl, with All-Pro honours soon to follow.

Watched

"I feel the same today as I've felt all season," Akers said. "I've kicked well in practice; I've kicked well in pregame. Anybody who has watched, I have done very well.

"I'm kind of frustrated and befuddled about the whole season. Again, I wish I had that magical answer for you because I'd have changed a long time ago."

Akers converted his first six field-goal attempts this season and seemed headed for a second straight All-Pro selection. Then came a head-scratching skid in which he made only 23 of his final 36 attempts -- six of his misses came in games the 49ers lost or tied.

Now, he's immersed in a head-to-head competition with veteran Billy Cundiff, not knowing whether he will be the kicker when the 49ers play their first NFC playoff game Jan. 12.

"Right now, obviously, they're making some decisions whether I'm going to be here or not," Akers said. "It's really out of my control. I can't really think of it as a competition because it's going into the second week of the playoffs in our books. So, I'm just going out, and I'm going to practise how I normally practise and not put any more into it."

Akers said he finished the 2011 season with a double sports hernia that required surgery in February. The injury flared up this season as a result of a fall on a kickoff, and he received injections to calm the inflammation the week after the Saints game.

That isn't an excuse for his uneven performance, Akers said. He just can't seem to get into a rhythm during games.

"It's been disappointing," Akers said. "I'm disappointed in myself. There's nothing I can really do about it now. I can't go back in the past. Try today to get better and figure out why they're not going between the poles. If I had an answer, I would have fixed it a long time ago."

Akers also confirmed that he received death threats on Twitter during this season, prompting him to cancel his account.

Akers and Cundiff alternated field-goal attempts Thursday, with Harbaugh taking it all in, first from behind the kickers and later from near the goal line.

The process lasted for 30 minutes or so, with Akers making his first six attempts before missing wide right from 53 yards. He then hit eight straight from ranges of 38 to 52 yards out, only to miss four of his final six attempts, all wide right.

Cundiff hit back-to-back attempts from 50 and 55 yards, respectively, though both came while he used a portable holding device.

Overall, Cundiff nailed 10 of 12 attempts, with the final eight coming with 49ers punter Andy Lee holding.

"It has been laid out very clearly," Cundiff said. "It's, go out and practice well, don't worry about anything else. Just give us your best. It's the head coach's decision, management's decision, on who's going to kick... I'm just going to go out there and try to have the best practices I can."

-- Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 6, 2013 B6

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