NEW ORLEANS — Though David Akers nearly kicked himself out of the job, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is optimistic the 14-year veteran will put his best foot forward Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.
At Thursday’s practice, Akers kicked flawlessly inside the Saints’ practice facility while dealing with simulated crowd noise and being subjected to good-natured catcalls from his teammates.
“That’s the first time they ever have done that in two years,’’ Harbaugh said of the players’ manufactured crowd noise. “David made all of them, which was even better. His mechanics are real good. That bodes well. Good things will happen for us in that area.’’
Akers, 38, has converted a career-low 69 percent of his field-goal attempts this season (29 of 42), including nine of 19 (47.3 percent) from 40 yards and beyond. He made 44 of 52 field goals last season (84.6 percent).
He enters Sunday’s game against Baltimore at a low point, having missed a 38-yard attempt in the 49ers’ 28-24 victory at Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.
“He’s been hitting the ball really well,’’ Harbaugh said. “He’s had some really good hits on the ball that haven’t gone through, and we’ll live with that. We know what he’s capable of doing. We’ll get the results. We’re very confident he’s going to have a big day in the Super Bowl.’’
Harbaugh toyed with the idea of replacing Akers at the end of the regular season, signing veteran Billy Cundiff to the 53-man roster. But Akers prevailed in head-to-head competition.
“It’s been a tough personal season for myself,’’ he said. “Injuries in the beginning of the year, having (groin) surgery, and then rehabbing. This year has been rocky, to say the least. Hopefully, we can end up strong.’’
If the past two days of practice are any indication, the 49ers look ready for Sunday’s game.
Harbaugh put his team through a crisp, 100-minute workout Thursday, devoting the first 70 minutes outside to its core offense and defense and the last 30 inside on the kicking game.
“I thought (Wednesday) was outstanding, but (Thursday) was a photocopy of that,’’ he said. “In some ways, it was maybe a little better. I’m real pleased, real pleased.’’
Harbaugh described his team as loose and focused at the same time.
“You don’t want burnt meat, stale bread or overripe fruit,’’ he said of the two quality practices. “It’s coming along nicely.’’
Linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were limited in practice for the second consecutive day but did some work.
Off-limits to media
Both teams concluded their obligatory media sessions Thursday morning and now turn their full attention to Sunday’s game.
A reporter tried to squeeze in one final question to Brooks, but ...
“Questions are over, man,’’ he said. “I’m outta here.’’
Defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, who played on LSU’s 2003 BCS championship team, had a different perspective.
“It’s fun,’’ he said. “I like talking to the media. It allows you guys to see my personality instead of just seeing me under the helmet.’’
A female journalist from Japan presented 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss with a white headband bearing the inscription “Bushido’’ written in her native language. “It means ‘way of samurai’ or ‘spirit of samurai,’ ” she said.
Moss removed his 49ers cap, wrapped the white, flowing, scarf-like band around his head and walked out of the banquet room.
“He’s a unique guy. He still thinks he’s a player. He’s really intense.’’
— Aldon Smith on Jim Harbaugh