In the news:
San Francisco releases up-and-down kicker Akers
David Akers' 49ers career is officially over after a two-year tenure that saw him go from a record-setting kicker to one who drew social-media death threats.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — David Akers' 49ers career is officially over after a two-year tenure that saw him go from a record-setting kicker to one who drew social-media death threats.
San Francisco on Wednesday released Akers, who made only 69 percent of his field-goal attempts last season (29 of 42), yet retained his job through the 49ers' run to Super Bowl XLVII.
The 49ers, who gained some $3 million in salary-cap relief with Akers' exit, can look for his successor in a well-stocked free-agent market. Among the veterans expected to become available next week are Phil Dawson, Rob Bironas, Jason Hanson, Mike Nugent and Lawrence Tynes.
The 49ers also could turn back to Billy Cundiff, whom they signed Jan. 1 to compete with Akers. Cundiff failed to unseat Akers before their playoff opener and was waived Jan. 18.
Drafting a kicker is a seldom-used option for the 49ers, who are expected to enter the draft with 15 picks. The last time the 49ers drafted a kicker was in 2002, when they used a fourth-round pick on Jeff Chandler. He was cut two games into the 2003 season.
The top kickers in next month's draft, as projected by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., are Florida State's Dustin Hopkins, Florida's Caleb Sturgis, Portland State's Zach Brown and Nebraska's Brett Maher.
Although Akers' 15th season was filled with frustrating misses, it followed a record-setting 2011 season in which he made 44 of 52 field-goal attempts, both NFL records, and tallied 166 points, most by a kicker.
Akers, 38, has no intention of retiring, his agent told USA Today.
Goodell: NFL must make football safer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will continue to do "everything we can" to make football safer.
Player safety in the NFL has been a frequent topic of conversation recently and Goodell discussed it again during a lecture and question-and-answer session at the University of North Carolina.
"We know that in order to secure the future, we can and must do more to make the game safer, and in the process, we will make other sports safer as well," Goodell said.
Goodell called for "a culture of safety for every sport" and welcomes the national conversation about player safety and the growing issue of concussions.
The NFL is facing concussion-related lawsuits from thousands of former players.
• The long-running battle over the name Redskins gets a restart Thursday when a group of Native Americans goes before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in Washington, D.C., to argue the team should lose its federal trademark protection. Their argument is based on a law that prohibits registered names that are disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable.
• Linebacker Bryan Scott, a 10-year veteran, signed a one-year contract to remain with the Buffalo Bills and forego unrestricted free agency.