Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco’s starting kicker.
For now, anyway.
Coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days ahead of the 49ers’ NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park today.
“Suffice it to say, we feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win,” Harbaugh said.
The 49ers (11-4-1) signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a 15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29 of 42 field-goal attempts.
He has plenty of supporters in the locker room who still believe he can put the ball through the uprights on the NFL’s biggest stage.
“It’s nice to see that Akers gets an opportunity to redeem himself, especially in the playoffs,” safety Donte Whitner said.
“If he does it in the playoffs, I believe that everybody will forget about the misses that he had in the regular season.”
Akers revealed last week he underwent double hernia surgery last February, then re-aggravated the area earlier this season when he slipped on the field during practice.
After a Nov. 25 game at New Orleans, Akers returned to the doctor in Philadelphia who performed the surgery to receive an injection.
The left-footed Akers understood why Cundiff was brought in, but made it clear he wants to remain the kicker.
“He responded like a football player does,” Harbaugh said. “He competed.”
Cundiff, who missed a potential tying 32-yarder that might have kept Baltimore and Harbaugh’s big brother, John, from reaching the Super Bowl last season, will remain on the roster.
Harbaugh said he likely won’t be among the active players today.
“To be determined – most likely not,” Harbaugh said. “He’s done a nice job. David’s done a better job and is more prepared to give us the best chance to win.”
Akers received death threats last month via Twitter, and NFL and team security got involved.
He missed overtime kicks twice against the Rams this season, with the 49ers losing at St. Louis and tying at home. Akers had a field goal blocked in a loss at Seattle on Dec. 23 that Richard Sherman returned 90 yards for a touchdown.
He missed two more wide left in a home victory against Arizona in the regular-season finale before bouncing back to make two.
The 38-year-old Akers began the season by making a 63-yarder in a season-opening win at Green Bay in which the ball bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights.
Last week, he said, “I would definitely give that 63-yarder back to make the two kicks against St. Louis.”
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “I actually thought that was going to be the choice. I thought he should stick with David from the get-go. I think that was just a little pressure to get David back on point. He was a little off. I’m glad he’s out kicking. Coach is not the guy that brings in a lot of people, changes a lot of positions.
“We kind of stick who we’ve stuck with from the beginning of training camp. David’s that guy. I’ve said all along David’s going to make the kick to help us win the Super Bowl. That’s just been my mindset, since Day 1.”
Rogers would know, too. They faced off for six seasons in the NFC East – Akers for the Eagles and Rogers with the Washington Redskins. Akers made 20 of 22 field goals in their head-to-head meetings, missing only from 50 and 53 yards.
Akers made 44 of 52 field goals during his All-Pro 2011 season, his first in a three-year deal after joining San Francisco. His reliable left leg had seemed near-perfect – causing his teammates to wonder why the Eagles would ever let him go – until this up-and-down season.
When asked whether Akers’ playoff experience factored into the decision and gave him an edge over Cundiff, Harbaugh said, “feel like we’ve plowed that ground as thoroughly as it can possibly be plowed.”
His teammates were happy to hear the news.
“Everybody respects Dave in this locker room,” backup quarterback Alex Smith said. “I know it’s been tough. It’s not easy. It seems like you only really get noticed when you go out there and fail. Everybody has respect for what Dave is about, what he stands for.
“He’s obviously gone through a rough patch. Happy to see him win the competition. I hope it gets him back on track.”