January 30, 2011
If you wondered why Philadelphia Eagles kicker David Akers(notes) had an uncharacteristically bad day against the Green Bay Packers in Philly's 21-16 wild-card round loss, wonder no more. Akers missed two field goals in the game, 41-yard and 34-yard attempts that each went wide right and could have made that game a different story, but he had a lot on his mind. The news broke Sunday on Philly.com that Akers and his wife, Erika, had discovered two days before the game that their 6-year-old daughter Halley had a growth in her right ovary that might require removal of the ovary before the growth spread.
Devastated, Akers (who had to be excused from practice on the Friday before the game so that he could attend his daughter's MRI and ultrasound) tried to move forward, but it was obviously difficult.
"In this position, no matter what, you have to be able to put [your personal life] aside for those few hours and go do your job," Akers said. "There are so many people depending on you, other players who have put everything in, the coaches, the fans. ...
"I feel like I can play through anything, but I didn't play well enough, so maybe that had something to do with it.
What really hurt Akers was that Eagles head coach Andy Reid, who was aware of the condition of Akers' daughter, pointed out Akers' performance after the game ("We can all count. Those points would have helped," Reid said after the game). Certainly understandable under normal circumstances, but borderline unforgiveable with these conditions in mind. It would have been just as easy for Reid to give the usual "coachspeak" answer that it takes 53 guys to win or lose a game, and it seemed mean-spirited in retrospect for Akers' coach to single him out. Especially since Reid has had so many family problems of his own.
One day after the loss to the Packers, the Akers family got the news -- Halley did have a malignant tumor that would have to be removed. Two weeks later, doctors have told Halley's mom and dad that they got the tumor in time, and that barring something showing up in the frequent checkups she'll obviously have to undergo through the next year and beyond, the news is positive.
Whether Akers, who is scheduled to be a free agent in 2011, goes back the Eagles or not is a matter of conjecture, but despite his role in that playoff loss, you'll have to excuse him for feeling like a winner at this point -- and for all the right reasons. Eagles special teams coach Bobby April checked in on the family, and Redskins linebacker London Fletcher(notes) (who's long been one of the classiest guys in the league) made a point to meet Halley during Pro Bowl practice.
Certainly Reid has enough time on his hands to make sure everything's OK with the Akers family, but the article didn't cite any examples of such concern. We can only hope the omission is in the coverage and not the effort.
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