David Akers drew sharp criticism from Philadelphia Eagles fans after missing two field-goal attempts in a 21-16 playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
But the five-time Pro Bowl kicker had more important things on his mind, the *Philadelphia Inquirer* reported Sunday. Two days before the Jan. 9 game, doctors told Akers that his 6-year-old daughter, Halley, needed to have a malignant cyst in her left ovary removed.
"It was just kind of a smack of reality," Akers told the Inquirer, later adding: "They used the word tumor or cyst or growth. And you're like, 'OK, what does that mean?' Cancer is what that means."
Akers, the 17th most-accurate kicker in NFL history, played against the Packers despite the news but missed field-goal tries of 41 and 34 yards.
"I could tell he was there doing his job," Akers' wife, Erika, told the Inquirer. "But he wasn't there."
After the game, fans railed against Akers, who has been the Eagles' kicker since 1999, and coach Andy Reid said: "We can all count. Those points would have helped." The coach's comments affected Akers since he knew Reid was aware of the situation with his daughter, according to the newspaper. The team even excused Akers from practice so he could be with Halley for her two-hour examination and an ultrasound.
The day after the game, Eagles safety Quintin Mikell revealed that Akers was distracted by an off-the-field issue but wouldn't elaborate. The kicker's agent, Jerrold Colton, called it a "private family health concern."
"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, who will be a free agent this offseason, told the Inquirer. "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' daughter later had surgery, and doctors believe they have removed all of the malignant tumor. However, Halley must undergo blood tests every month for the next year, then have more tests as she grows older. She likely will need to have her right ovary removed at some point, too.
The entire Akers family -- which also includes 8-year-old Luke and 2-year-old Sawyer -- was in Hawaii this week for the Pro Bowl, and David is wearing a reminder of his daughter's struggle: a blue hospital bracelet on his left wrist.
"You just don't think this is going to happen to your kid," he said.