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NINERS HIRE CUNDIFF TO COMPETE FOR STARTING JOB
Fri, 04 Jan 2013 01:30 AM EST

The San Francico 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff on Tuesday to compete with struggling David Akers.

”He’s thrilled with the chance to be able to help the team in any way he’ll this postseason,” said Cundiff’s agent, Paul Sheehy. ”It’s a great chance, with a great organization.”

The team announced the move a day after Coach Jim Harbaugh said 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 Redskins on Oct. 9 after missing 5 of his 12 field goal attempts. He had already worked out once for the Niners on November 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 January 12 at Candlestick Park. San Francisco will play Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks or Washington Redskins.

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

Cundiff spent the 2009-11 seasons with the 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 Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Jim Harbaugh said Monday he’d keep two kickers on the roster and open up a contest.

”If we had 2 on the line-up at the very same time, then they can kick in practice,” Harbaugh related. ”And that’s an option. That’s a definite possibility. I think there are 3 options. We go forward with David. We bring in a new kicker. Or, we have 2 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 3-year contract as arguably the 49ers’ biggest offseason purchase ahead of the 2011 season, except for 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 December 23, and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Baseball odds

The 32-year-old Cundiff joins his 6th team in 10 NFL seasons. He has additionally played for Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns.

The 49ers also brought in former Panthers kicker Justin Medlock for an audition on Monday. Medlock appeared in 10 games for the Carolina Panthers, but misses in 3 consecutive games led to his release.


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