The 49ers’ philosophy for football neophyte Jarryd Hayne and his first padded practice Tuesday is simple – throw him into the deep end and see how he swims.
“I think it will be great for him,” offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said of the running back. “Even the sound that pads make. I think it will be good for him to hear in the blocking game. And he’s such a great natural athlete, we’ll see where this goes. ... I think there’ll be maybe a humorous moment, and then there’ll be a ‘wow’ moment. And it might be all in the same practice.”
Hayne, a star in the Australian Rugby League before he signed with the 49ers in the offseason, has adjusted well to the practices so far. But the non-padded sessions have been suited to his strengths – running in space, showing off his speed and catching the ball. Since the spring, there has been plenty of anticipation and some concern about the first time Hayne gets walloped.
That’s because his upright running style, which works well on the rugby pitch, makes him an easy target for young linebackers and defensive backs hoping to catch the eye of their coaches.
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Bring it on, Hayne said.
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “I’m sure there are going to be times when I get smashed because I’m running too upright. That’s part of the learning curve. I don’t have fear in that. I’d rather get hit hard and learn like that than beat around the bush. It’s one way you learn from your mistakes.”
Hayne is at the bottom of the depth chart, and those runners typically get most of the carries in a team’s first “live” session of training camp. He also has been working at punt returner and shown nice hands and the ability to track the ball in that role.
Chryst also complimented Hayne’s progress in picking up blitzes and recognizing what the defense is doing, perhaps the two biggest hurdles for a rookie running back. Unlike fourth-round pick Mike Davis, however, Hayne never has been crunched by an NFL, college or high school defender.
The best way to get acclimated, all of his coaches have said, is repetition.
“I hope he keeps his pads down as he runs through the line,” Chryst said. “He’s going to have fun with it. But that’s one thing that you always need reps at the first couple of days is pad level. You put the pads on, and you want to hit somebody, but we’ve got to play with our pad level down.”
Sod story – Levi’s Stadium recuperated Monday after taking a beating on the first two days of training camp. The team worked out on its usual practice fields adjacent to the stadium.
The 49ers’ original plan was to spend the first eight days of training camp at Levi’s to gain a better comfort level at the 1-year-old facility. However, the field was torn up on Day One after a high school all-star game and 49ers practice totaling six hours.
The 49ers have two more public practices Wednesday and Sunday at Levi’s. The rest of the practice settings will be determined based on field conditions.
Et cetera – Left tackle Joe Staley received the day off because of his veteran status. Rookie Trent Brown and Alex Boone took turns filling in for Staley with the first-string line, and the results were not pretty as there were several false starts and missed assignments.
▪ Cornerback Tramaine Brock has had interceptions in the last two practices. On Monday, he picked off a short pass from Colin Kaepernick that ricocheted off wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
▪ A tripleheader of high school games will be held Sept. 18 at Levi’s. The 49ers open at home against Minnesota on Sept. 14. Their next game at Levi’s is Oct. 4 vs. Green Bay.