The busiest 49er this offseason? That award might go to newcomer Jarryd Hayne, who not only is learning new positions, a new sport and a new culture (how to drive on the right side of the road, for example), he’s been double-dipping with both the veterans and rookies over the last week.
Friday was a case in point. Hayne was on the field with veterans Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter as they went through their routine in the second phase of the offseason program. When that was over, he stuck around and got some extra work with the rookies.
“Am I thrilled that he’s here? Absolutely,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “He’s a neat dude. All that stuff’s great. He’s running around and learning his stuff. He’s dedicated and committed. He’s a pro. He’s been a pro for a long time.”
A year ago, Hayne was at the top of his sport, starring in the National Rugby League, and was one of the most recognized athletes in his native Australia. This year, he’s at the bottom – fighting for a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man squad. If Hayne stands out, it’s because he’s the one consulting crib notes during practice sessions.
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When the rookies were on the field Friday, Hayne was taking handoffs alongside fourth-round pick Mike Davis as position coach Tom Rathman gave instructions. When that session was over, he jogged to the other side of the field to shag punts from fifth-round draft pick Bradley Pinion.
With last year’s punt returner, Bruce Ellington, dealing with a hamstring strain, Hayne has had plenty of work receiving punts in recent weeks. The act is similar to what did on the rugby pitch, and on Friday Hayne only let one of Pinion’s punts hit the ground.
“Did you see him catching those punts?” Tomsula said. “It’s a little easier to catch a football than a rugby ball. The wind catches a rugby ball, that thing’s zig-zagging all over the place.”
Tomsula said Hayne ought to look comfortable in spring drills. There are no pads, no helmets and no hitting, which won’t begin training camp. That test for Hayne begins in July.
“When you watch what we’re doing here, he’s still playing rugby,” Tomsula said. “There are no pads here. He’s fielding balls and running around in shorts and a t-shirt.”