Akers keeps 49ers kicking job; Browns set to hire Chudzinski
David Akers will keep his job as San Francisco's starting kicker. For now, anyway.
Coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days before the 49ers' NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park.
"Suffice it to say we feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win," Harbaugh said.
The 49ers signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a 15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29 of 42 field-goal attempts. Akers revealed last week he underwent double hernia surgery last February, then re-aggravated the area when he slipped on the field during practice.
Akers, who played at Tates Creek High School and the University of Louisville, understood why Cundiff was brought in but made it clear he wants to remain the kicker.
"He responded like a football player does," Harbaugh said. "He competed."
"It's nice to see that Akers gets an opportunity to redeem himself, especially in the playoffs," safety Donte Whitner said. "If he does it in the playoffs, I believe that everybody will forget about the misses that he had in the regular season."
Cundiff will remain on the roster but is not likely to be among the active players Saturday.
A person familiar with the decision says the Cleveland Browns have hired Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach.
Chudzinski will become the Browns' sixth full-time coach since 1999, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on the condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the hiring.
The 44-year-old Chudzinski has spent the past two seasons with the Panthers. He has had two previous stints with the Browns as an assistant coach.
Chudzinski, who grew up in Ohio and rooted for the Browns as a kid, interviewed with the team on Wednesday. He has spent the past two years working with quarterback Cam Newton.
The Browns have been searching for a coach since firing Pat Shurmur on Dec. 31 after a 5-11 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey on Thursday after just one season, the worst in franchise history at 2-14.
New general manager David Caldwell made the announcement, giving him a clean slate heading into 2013. Caldwell said he made the move just 48 hours after he was hired because he wants to immediately explore every avenue possible to turn the Jaguars around.
When he ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest, Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said Thursday the former NFL star's abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 years in the NFL with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died in May at age 43, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have cut rookie running back Chris Rainey following his arrest on a battery charge in Florida. Gainesville police officers charged Rainey with a single count of misdemeanor simple battery following an incident with his girlfriend.
Players will be tested for HGH all season
Under an agreement reached Thursday between Major League Baseball and the players' association, players will be tested for human growth hormone throughout the regular season, and effort will be increased to detect abnormal levels of testosterone.
Players were subject to blood testing for HGH only during spring training last year. Players are also subject to urine tests for other performance-enhancing drugs.
The World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Laval, Quebec, will keep records of each player, including his baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and will conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) tests of any urine specimens that "vary materially."
"The announcement came one day after steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa failed to gain election to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility
EKU players in all-star games
Eastern Kentucky University seniors Aaron Adams and Tyrone Goard will play in college football all-star games this month.
Adams will play in the Casino del Sol College Football All-Star Game in Tucson, Ariz., at 9 p.m. Friday.
Goard will play for the West in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., at 4 p.m. Jan. 19. The game will be televised live on the NFL Network.
Adams was a two-time first team All-Ohio Valley Conference offensive lineman. Goard was one of the top wide receivers in the OVC the past two years. He leaves Eastern ranked among the school's top 10 in career receiving yards (1,842) and touchdown catches (24).
LSU's list of underclassmen entering the NFL draft reached 11 Wednesday when offensive tackle Chris Faulk decided to forgo his senior season. Faulk was considered a candidate for early entry before the season, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against North Texas.
Georgia's junior nose tackle Kwame Geathers told the school Wednesday that he plans to enter the draftg. Geathers 6-foot-6, 355-pounds, played in all 14 games and finished with 40 tackles, including five for losses and a sack.
Waltrip to race for Swan at Daytona
Michael Waltrip will enter the Daytona 500, set for Feb. 24, with Swan Racing. The two-time Daytona 500 winner will drive the No. 30 Toyota in a one-race deal. The team will use full-time driver David Stremme the rest of the season.
Danica Patrick says she does not plan to race in this year's Indianapolis 500 because she wants to concentrate on her first full-time season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series.
John Isner, at No. 13 the top-ranked U.S. men's tennis player, pulled out of the Australian Open on Thursday, citing a bone bruise in his right knee. No. 22 Sam Querrey is the lone U.S. man ranked in the top 50 in the tournament.
Thongchai Jaidee shot a 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead on the opening day of the Volvo Champions golf tournament in Durban, South Africa. Thongchai birdied six of his first 10 holes to finish three shots ahead of two of South Africa's major winners, Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen in the European Tour event.
The last word
Tennis star Maria Sharapova is turning her sweet tooth into a profitable business with Sugarpova, her own candy brand. Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight at market researcher Mintel Food & Drink, is optimistic about the product finding a place in the $28 billion global market for gummy candy:
"She's attractive and she's well-spoken. Those two things right away help her. Sugarpova is a cute name. Even those who aren't focused on tennis might find the name intriguing, the packaging intriguing, and the flavors."