After Eagles kicker David Akers missed a pair of field goals in a wild-card playoff loss to the Packers, teammate Quintin Mikell said that Akers was distracted by a personal issue. Akers’ agent downplayed the issue, saying that it was “nothing major” and that Akers wasn’t using it as an excuse for his errant kicks.
As it turns out, it was something major. Akers and his family were waiting to learn whether his six-year-old daughter, Halley, has cancer, according to Ashley Fox of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Two days before the game, the Eagles excused Akers from practice as doctors conducted a two-hour MRI and then an ultrasound exam on Halley. Doctors said that Halley had a growth on an ovary, and that it possibly was malignant. On Monday, the day after the playoff game, the family and doctors would reconvene to discuss surgical options.
“They used the word tumor or cyst or growth,” Akers told Fox. “And you’re like, ‘OK, what does that mean?’ Cancer is what that means. . . . You just think about your little girl. I think for me as a father it was harder than for her mother, because you think of her as ‘Daddy’s little girl.'”
Akers played with those worries on his mind.
“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.”
Akers’ wife, Erika, knew that it was affecting him. (Really, how couldn’t it?) “I could tell he was there doing his job,” Erika said. “But he wasn’t there.”
The news makes even more surprising — and disappointing — the decision of coach Andy Reid to cast blame on Akers for missing two field goals during the
eightfive-point defeat. “We can all count,” Reid said. “Those points would have helped.”
Reid should have also blamed himself. He knew what Akers was going through. Reid could have signed another kicker for the game. At a minimum, Reid should have opted against kicking a field goal when down by 11 points early in the fourth quarter and facing fourth and one from the Green Bay 16.
Halley Akers later was diagnosed with cancer, but doctors believe that the surgery successfully removed all of it. She left the hospital once day after the surgery, and she’s doing well.
But it’s fairly safe to say that Akers won’t be back with the Eagles. His contract is up, and there have been no talks regarding an extension. Given the head coach’s post-game comments, it’s hard to imagine Akers wanting to play for Reid again.
Akers likely won’t be out of work for long. The other 31 teams should look at the Pro Bowlers’ ability to even take the field and not collapse to his knees while in the middle of an unthinkably stressful time as proof that he’s the consummate professional.