Even a day later, hype surrounded Jarryd Hayne’s impressive first NFL action for the San Francisco 49ers.
The former Australian rugby league star broke open a 53-yard run early in the second quarter of a 23-10 loss at Houston on Saturday night. He had five carries for 63 yards, a 33-yard kickoff return and a pair of punt returns totalling 24 yards.
None of this means a thing when it comes to whether the 27-year-old rookie will make the 53-man roster out of training camp, which would still be a surprise. A spot on the practice squad has long seemed most likely, yet Hayne is certainly doing his part to make an impact.
“I’m not as shocked that Jarryd was able to field punts and run or field kicks and run, or that Jarryd was able to see creases and take them and then get into the open field and a void. I’ve seen him do all those things,” coach Jim Tomsula said on Sunday.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on Jarryd Hayne playing rugby. The things that excite me about Jarryd Hayne are the things that we’ve got to stay on, is when you get into those tighter quarters and seeing those little creases. That’s where the improvement is.”
Hayne spent the past nine years – from 2006-14 – with the Parramatta Eels of the Australian National Rugby League before giving up that career to chase a new, drastically different one across the globe.
Only recently did he take his first NFL hit in pads early on in training camp. Taking that to game speed can be a major adjustment.
“Obviously, it was a huge step for me and even before the game I was pretty calm,” Hayne said. “It was in the warmup when I found out I was going to be second string after (running back) Carlos (Hyde) had his first stint. So, that gave me a bit of a shocker like ‘whoa’ and put me into a bit of the deep end, but I was fine.”
Hayne has shown no signs that he underwent minor foot surgery when he went back home to Australia after the team’s mandatory June minicamp.
Last year, he gave up his rugby career to chase a football dream as an undrafted free agent for San Francisco.
“I just like to temper everything. We don’t need to put undo expectations. It’s unnecessary for me to put that on his plate right now,” Tomsula said. “I just want him to stay focused on getting better.
“The guy’s a world-class athlete. He played professional sports for seven, eight, nine years.”
Renowned for his acceleration and counter-attacking skills in rugby, Hayne has said he believes he has the ability to make it as either a punt returner or kick returner. He has worked extensively with running backs coach Tom Rathman to learn the system and his technique.
“I just wanted to come out, obviously, and do well and not make any mistakes,” Hayne said. “That was probably the biggest thing.”