Harbaugh sticking with Akers as starting kicker


Harbaugh sticking with Akers as starting kicker

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) 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.

``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 isn't likely to be among the active players Saturday.

``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.''

Akers wasn't available to the media Thursday.

``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.''


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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