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49ers sign kicker Cundiff to compete with Akers

49ers sign kicker Cundiff to compete with Akers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff on Tuesday to compete with struggling veteran David Akers.

``He's thrilled with the opportunity to be in a position to help the team in any way he can this postseason,'' said Cundiff's agent, Paul Sheehy. ``It's a great opportunity, with a great organization.''

The team announced the move a day after coach Jim Harbaugh said that the NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1) - off this week as the NFC's No. 2 seed - planned to try out kickers because of Akers' prolonged funk.

Cundiff was released by the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9 after missing 5 of his 12 field goal attempts. He had already worked out once for the Niners on Nov. 27 before they invited him back this time, as Harbaugh initially chose to stick with Akers.

Now, Akers and Cundiff will compete to see who kicks in the team's NFC divisional playoff game in prime time Jan. 12 at Candlestick Park. San Francisco will play Green Bay, Seattle or Washington.

The 49ers cleared a spot on the 53-man roster for Cundiff by waiving linebacker Eric Bakhtiari. Players had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday - so that will be the first look at both kickers together.

Cundiff spent the 2009-11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who are coached by Harbaugh's big brother, John. But Cundiff was cut after last season, when he 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.

Jim Harbaugh said Monday he might keep two kickers on the roster and open up a competition.

``If we had two on the roster at the same time, then they can kick in practice,'' Harbaugh said. ``And that's an option. That's a possibility. I think there are three options. We go forward with David. We bring in a new kicker. Or, we have two and let them compete for the job. We'll make that decision as we go.''

Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season and first year with San Francisco, is just 29 for 42 this year. He is only 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards and missed wide left twice from that range in Sunday's 27-13 victory against Arizona in the regular-season finale.

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 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.

The 32-year-old Cundiff joins his sixth team in 10 NFL seasons. He has also played for Dallas, New Orleans and Cleveland.

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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

The Howard University football program has moved a step closer to landing perhaps its highest-ranked recruit in years, if not ever.

Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman trimmed his college choice to seven on Wednesday evening, and the Howard Bison were on the list. The other six schools were Southern California (USC), LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Georgia.

In Foreman's tweet, he explained why Howard, a historically Black college (HBCU), was included in his list.

"I am a young black man that is happy and proud of my race," he wrote. "The Black Lives Matter movement is and forever will be powerful and definitely never forgotten. These are the schools I will now be focusing on the most. Set the standard and .. be different."

The news comes just a week after the Howard basketball program landed five-star Makur Maker, who chose the Bison over Division I schools UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. Maker was the highest-ranked recruit Howard basketball has landed in its history. Mikey Williams, a top-five basketball recruit in the 2023 class, has already hinted about potentially playing at an HBCU as well.

Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, is projected to commit to USC, according to 247Sports. Foreman is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect on 247Sports recruiting rankings for the 2021 class.

However, if the last few weeks are any indication, Howard can't be ruled out.

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