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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.''

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.

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