The crowd gathered around David Akers for three solid hours, showing him love and great appreciation for his 12 seasons as an Eagles placekicker. The occasion was Jefferson's Heart Health Event at the King of Prussia Mall on Saturday, a day designed to raise awareness of heart health care sponsored by Jefferson University Hospitals and the Eagles.
Akers was there to sign autographs and mingle with the crowd along with Merrill Reese, who needs no introduction, SWOOP and a handful of lovely Eagles cheerleaders. There were cooking demonstrations, free food displays, blood pressure checks, prizes and giveaways. Akers, though, was the main attraction. And he had some time to talk about what is next in his career after another Pro Bowl season and the Eagles' decision to use the transition tag to secure his rights for 2011.
Truth be told, Akers would love to sign a long-term contract and play with the Eagles for years to come. That hasn't happened to date. Whether it does, well, nobody knows. The uncertainty of the labor discussions and the possibility of a work stoppage cast an uncertain future for every player in the league.
"You play 12 years and you finally get a chance to get to free agency and you kind of want to see what happens, so I don't know," said Akers when asked about his reaction to the use of the transition tag. "I'm going to do what is best for my family, and I don't know what that is. Who knows what is going to happen? Until the CBA gets signed, we don't know what is going to happen so we're going to take it day by day. Hopefully the union and the owners can work something out. Obviously, we want to play.
"I would have liked to work out something before now. I really think that would have been nice. The Eagles have been so great to me over the 12 years. They are looking at things as a business and that's just part of it. I don't hold anything against them at all."
Akers is the franchise's all-time leading scorer and one of the game's best kickers ever. His 2010 season ended in a disappointing fashion with a couple of missed field goals and then a post-game press briefing at his locker that was, in a word, concerning. Akers spoke of his Eagles' career in a past tense. Some figured he had kicked his last football as a member of the team.
Then, a couple of days later, word came out that Akers played that postseason game with a heavy heart and a lot on his mind as he learned only days before the kickoff that his daughter was ill and needed surgery. All is fine with his daughter. Akers played in the Pro Bowl, his fifth, and became the NFL's all-time leading scorer in the all-star game.
"Our loss was so upsetting for everyone," he said. "We wanted to win the Super Bowl and we lost to Green Bay. It was a disappointing end to our season."
Now? Akers spent Saturday in the midst of hundreds of adoring fans who asked for his autograph, who posed for pictures and who expressed their hope that he returns for years to come as the team's placekicker. Beyond that, well, Akers is like every one of the league's players. He doesn't know what happens next.
"It's a waiting game right now to see what the league is going to do," he said. "I mean, I don't know where I'm going to live, what team I'm going to be playing for, even if there is going to be football in the fall. There are a lot of what ifs out there, so I want to let the fans know that is has been a wonderful 12 years and we'll see what the future holds.
"Ideally, if all things were equal, I would be an Eagle for years to come. But all things aren't equal right now and sometimes you don't get what you want."