SANTA CLARA -- David Akers spent Thursday auditioning for the job he has held the past two seasons under the watchful eyes of coach Jim Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke and special teams coordinator Brad Seely.
It's a far cry from last season at this time, when Akers was basking in a record-setting season and a selection to the Pro Bowl, with All-Pro honors soon to follow.
"I feel the same today as I've felt all season," Akers said. "I've kicked well in practice; I've kicked well in pregame. Anybody who has watched, I have done very well.
"I'm kind of frustrated and befuddled about the whole season. Again, I wish I had that magical answer for you because I'd have changed a long time ago."
Akers converted his first six field-goal attempts this season and seemed headed for a second straight All-Pro selection. Then came a head-scratching skid in which he made only 23 of his final 36 attempts -- six of his misses came in games the 49ers lost or tied.
Now, he's immersed in a head-to-head competition with veteran Billy Cundiff, not knowing whether he will be the kicker when the 49ers play their first NFC playoff game Jan. 12.
"Right now, obviously, they're making some decisions whether I'm going to be here or not," Akers said. "It's really out of my control. I can't really think of it as a competition because it's going into the second week of the playoffs in our books. So, I'm just going out, and I'm going to practice how I
Akers said he finished the 2011 season with a double sports hernia that required surgery in February. The injury flared up this season as a result of a fall on a kickoff, and he received injections to calm down the inflammation the week after the Saints game.
That isn't an excuse for his uneven performance, Akers said. He just can't seem to get into a rhythm during games.
"It's been disappointing," Akers said. "I'm disappointed in myself. There's nothing I can really do about it now. I can't go back in the past. Try today to get better and figure out why they're not going between the poles. If I had an answer, I would have fixed it a long time ago."
Akers also confirmed that he received death threats on Twitter during this season, prompting him to cancel his account.
Akers and Cundiff alternated field-goal attempts Thursday, with Harbaugh taking it all in, first from behind the kickers and later from near the goal line.
The process lasted for 30 minutes or so, with Akers making his first six attempts before missing wide right from 53 yards. He then hit eight straight from ranges of 38 to 52 yards out, only to miss four of his final six attempts, all wide right.
Cundiff hit back-to-back attempts from 50 and 55 yards, respectively, though both came while he used a portable holding device.
Overall, Cundiff nailed 10 of 12 attempts, with the final eight coming with 49ers punter Andy Lee holding.
The 49ers worked out Cundiff earlier this season and again Tuesday before signing him later that day. It's one of seven workouts Cundiff has had since he was released by the Washington Redskins after making 7 of 12 field-goal attempts this season (two of his misses were from 62 and 57 yards). This time, he appears to have a better shot at making it to a game.
"It has been laid out very clearly," Cundiff said. "It's, go out and practice well, don't worry about anything else. Just give us your best. It's the head coach's decision, management's decision, on who's going to kick. So, I'm not going to worry about anything else. I'm just going to go out there and try to have the best practices I can."
All seven misses by Akers and Cundiff sailed wide right -- one of Akers' misses hit the outside of the right upright.
Cundiff played for Harbaugh's brother, John Harbaugh, with the Baltimore Ravens from 2009-11. His Ravens career effectively ended with a snap-hook from 32 yards, with the Ravens trailing 23-20 with 15 seconds left in the AFC Championship game last season.
Cundiff went to training camp with the Ravens this season, but undrafted rookie Justin Tucker won the job.
Cundiff ultimately signed with Washington. He last kicked in a game almost three months ago, when he missed one of two attempts in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
A week before, Cundiff missed three of four field-goal attempts in a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cundiff said he would love the opportunity to redeem himself in this year's playoffs.
"Anyone that plays in the playoffs and doesn't have a performance they like would like another opportunity," Cundiff said.
Cundiff has made 75.5 percent of his field-goal attempts during his nine-year NFL career. Akers has made 81 percent of his attempts during his 15-year NFL career.