Akers seeking return to form against former coach

Akers seeking return to form against former coach
February 1, 2013, 8:00 pm
Share This Post

David Akers missed a league-high 13 field goals this year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

That’s what I’m relying on. Thirteen years of muscle movement, of quality years. This year I’m throwing out.
—David Akers

David Akers still vividly remembers his days serving hungry customers at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

“Try the Flo’s Filet. Absolutely outstanding,” Akers repeated with ease.

Akers was waiting tables while he waited to get back into the NFL. He had kicked in one game for Washington during the 1998 season before being released. His wait wasn’t long. The Eagles picked Akers up for the 1999 season, and it was with Philadelphia where he developed his Pro Bowl kicking style under one special teams coordinator, a coach named John Harbaugh.

“John and I kind of came through the ranks together,” Akers said.  “He was still a new special teams coordinator with the Eagles, and developed a great player-coach relationship and then a friendship off the field. I have a ton of respect for him.”

Harbaugh had come to the Eagles in 1998 after “serving” as the special teams coordinator with the Colts and Bengals. He worked with Akers to help develop a kicking technique, though Akers saw his coach as raw as he was at the time.

“He really didn’t know a lot about kicking, but what he did know was when I was doing something different, he could say, ‘Hey, I see this differently than when you’re doing something well,’” Akers said. “We spent a lot time watching film together, kind of coming up with some drills as a young kicker to kind of go through and kind of hone my skills a little bit more. I owe a lot of gratitude to John.”

Akers developed into a six-time Pro Bowler with three of those honors coming under Harbaugh. He uses the same drills and techniques to this day as he prepares to face his former coach in Super Bowl XLVII, though this season has been anything but Pro Bowl-worthy for Akers.

“This year has not been the way that I would have thought it would have gone. Especially after Week 1, hitting the 63-yarder,” Akers said.  “The ups and downs that we’ve had, has been annoying to say the least. Frustrating, mind-boggling. A lot of times you have no answers to it.”

Akers missed 13 field goals this season, more than any other kicker in the league. The Rams Greg Zuerlein and the Packers Mason Crosby are next up with eight misses each. Near the end of the season, Akers revealed he had off season surgery to treat a double sports hernia. He aggravated the injury midseason and flew back to Philadelphia to receive treatment from his surgeon. The injury surely played a factor in Akers connecting on only 47 percent (9-19) of his field goal attempts from 40 yards out, though the kicker won’t say as much. He says he is healthy now and is working on his short term memory for this Sunday.

“What you try to do is take your mind out of the game,” Akers said. “And you just let your muscle memory take over, and that goes back to my martial arts training. That’s the same movements over and over and over again so that when you do get into an altercation that your body takes over and your mind is out of it. That’s what I’m relying on. Thirteen years of muscle movement, of quality years. This year I’m throwing out.”

Akers was four for four in field goal attempts for the 49ers in the playoffs last season, including a 41-yarder. That brings him to 36-44 in the 23 postseason games he’s played in his career, an 82 percent success rate. He’d like nothing better than to return to form Sunday against the coach who helped him create it.