Billy Cundiff, sporting a crisp, new white No. 6 jersey, had an impressive first day of practice with the 49ers while kicking alongside struggling veteran David Akers as coach Jim Harbaugh watched closely.
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 in 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.”
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-of-8 with Andy Lee holding.
Akers went 16-for-21 in an unofficial media count during the open portion of practice.
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.
Note: Defensive lineman Justin Smith practiced with a brace over his injured left arm as he recovers from a partially torn tricep muscle that sidelined him for the final two regular-season games. “You just go out there and play till you can’t and be ready,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ll be ready.”