Quick Links

Billy Cundiff practices alongside David Akers

Billy Cundiff practices alongside David Akers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Billy Cundiff, sporting a crisp new white No. 6 jersey, had an impressive first day of practice with the San Francisco 49ers while kicking alongside struggling veteran David Akers as coach Jim Harbaugh closely watched.

Cundiff signed a one-year contract Tuesday with the NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1) to compete with Akers as Harbaugh and his staff determine who will handle the kicking duties for San Francisco in the NFC divisional playoffs Jan. 12 at Candlestick Park.

Akers revealed Thursday not only did he receive death threats last month via Twitter, he also underwent surgery for a double hernia last February and then had a flare-up in November. After a win at New Orleans on Nov. 25, Akers returned to Philadelphia for injections from the doctor who performed his procedure.

``People talk about my demeanor being down, listen, I take my job seriously,'' Akers said. ``I feel when I miss kicks I let the team, the organization, the fans down. I take it personal. I guess sometimes I care too much about it. That's just kind of who I am. I have no problem talking to y'all and being real. It's been disappointing. 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.''

The 32-year-old Cundiff, who missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that sent New England to the Super Bowl last season instead of the Baltimore Ravens, connected from as far out as 55 yards Thursday afternoon while using a portable holder. He was 10 of 12 overall, including 7 for 8 with Andy Lee holding.

Akers went 16 for 21 in an unofficial media count during the open portion of practice.

While Akers and Cundiff went about their jobs with no time for small talk, general manager Trent Baalke briefly chatted with Cundiff as the newcomer walked down the field to work on kickoffs. At one moment, Harbaugh walked nearly a full field to shag footballs under the uprights.

Akers and Cundiff know each other well, having played for the same coach and been in the 2010 Pro Bowl together.

Neither kicker knows what's next, or when he might learn who has won the job - if anybody, that is. Harbaugh might go into next weekend's game without having named a starter.

``For me, 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. So, I'm not going to worry about anything else. I'm just going to go out there and try to have the best practices I can.''

Akers twice missed wide right from 43 yards and again on a 48-yard try, while also coming up short from 52 and 53 yards.

For a franchise determined to take the next step and reach this year's Super Bowl after coming so close last season, Harbaugh is serious about finding a kicker he can count on - even if his choice of Cundiff is puzzling to some who remember his devastating miss for Harbaugh's big brother, John, and the Ravens a year ago.

Yet Cundiff tried out once in late November and again this week, and got his chance. He had seven tryouts in all over the recent months before landing his new job at last.

Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season, is just 29 for 42 this year. The six-time Pro Bowler and 15-year veteran is only 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards. He did connect from 63 yards in a season-opening win at Green Bay when the ball bounced off the crossbar in through the uprights.

He missed overtime kicks twice against the Rams this season, with the 49ers losing at St. Louis and tying at home.

``I would definitely give that 63-yarder back to make the two kicks against St. Louis,'' Akers said.

The 38-year-old Akers signed a three-year contract as arguably the 49ers' biggest offseason acquisition ahead of the 2011 season aside from the hiring of Harbaugh. And he delivered at nearly every opportunity - until recently.

He also had a 21-yard attempt blocked by Red Bryant in a 42-13 loss at Seattle on Dec. 23, and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Yet Akers has made at least one field goal in 33 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history.

Cundiff was released by the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9 after missing 5 of his 12 field goal attempts. The journeyman Cundiff joins his sixth team in 10 NFL seasons. He has also played for Dallas, New Orleans and Cleveland.

He has stayed ready week after week by counting down the NFL season on a whiteboard in his garage, where he works out.

``I was always mentally prepared for whatever situation was going to happen. I've been doing this for a while now,'' Cundiff said.

He can certainly relate to some of what Akers is going through.

``Well, everyone deals with it a little different. It's tough,'' Cundiff said. ``As my wife and I have talked about, things are a little different when you're in the fire. It's tough to find the right perspective that you normally get in the offseason.''

Notes: Defensive lineman Justin Smith practiced with a brace over his injured left arm as he recovers from a partially torn triceps muscle that sidelined him for the final two regular-season games. ``You just go out there and play `til you can't and be ready,'' Smith said. ``I feel like I'll be ready.''


Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

USA Today Sports Images

Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed WR Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Shefter.

After being released by the Raiders Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

Quick Links

Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

USA TODAY Sports Images

Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?