Jarryd Hayne said he couldn’t pick up Chip Kelly’s playbook as quickly as his 49ers teammates, prompting his decision last month to leave the NFL and make a run at Fiji’s Olympic rugby team.
“I just think with Chip’s playbook, it’s such an intense playbook that it would just take too much time,” Hayne told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Me not having that college history, I think a lot of the guys adapt to it a lot faster because they’ve had the college playbooks. I was always behind the nine ball just learning in general. The guys playing in college were just that far ahead.”
Hayne’s departure was a surprise, especially since he started a game for the 49ers at the end of the 2015 season and because the 49ers have a rather anonymous group of running backs behind Carlos Hyde.
However, Hayne’s start – it came Dec. 27 in Detroit – may have been a bit deceptive.
It came about due to a series of circumstances beginning with injuries to running backs Hyde (foot) and Shaun Draughn (knee), neither of whom were available for the game.
The 49ers signed DuJuan Harris a few days before kickoff. Harris picked up the playbook quickly, but he mostly learned the running plays.
The problem was that the 49ers were intent on opening the game with a pass play. Receiver Anquan Boldin needed one catch to become the 13th player in league history with 1,000 receptions in his career. The 49ers wanted to get that achievement out of the way as early as possible, hopefully on the first snap.
Because of that, they needed a running back well-versed in pass plays.
Kendall Gaskins was the first choice. He had been elevated from the practice squad to active roster when Hayne was cut (and subsequently added to the practice squad) in October. But according to a league source familiar with what transpired that week, Gaskins overslept and missed or was late for a meeting that week.
The team couldn’t reward him with an NFL start, so Hayne – who had been elevated from the practice squad that week – was tapped instead.
The plan worked in the sense that Boldin collected his 1,000th reception on the opening play. But a week later, when Harris was fully up to speed with the playbook and when yet another young runner, Mike Davis, was back in the lineup, Hayne didn’t see a single snap on offense.
Hayne, meanwhile, told the Sydney newspaper that his only regret about his NFL try is that he didn’t attempt it sooner.
“That was the biggest thing, just knowing and wishing I had a couple of more years up my sleeve,” he said. “If I had a couple more years up my sleeve 100 percent I know what player I could have been. But time is of the essence, and now I’m on to my next adventure and it’s brought me to Fiji.”
He’ll learn if he’s made the Fijian squad next month.