San Francisco 49ers

Hayne’s playin’: Aussie to return punts for 49ers

Australian import Jarryd Hayne will be in uniform for today’s 49ers-Vikings game
Australian import Jarryd Hayne will be in uniform for today’s 49ers-Vikings game The Bee

SANTA CLARA -- You can exhale, Australia.

Jarryd Hayne, that continent's favorite son, is in uniform for tonight's game against the Vikings and presumably will return punts. Hayne was excellent at that during the preseason, returning nine punts with an 18.1-yard average and showing an aggressive instinct common to all the best return men.

The upcoming game, however, might be a bit more challenging.

There was spotty rain earlier in the day and the wind is gusting up to 24 mph. Beyond that, it is coming out of the southwest instead of it's usual northwest pattern.

That had kicker Phil Dawson concerned in the run-up to the game.

“This camp I’ve only got to kick in (Levi's Stadium) three times," he said on Saturday. "The forecast calls for southwest winds, which I’ve never seen. I’ve got to treat it like a road game, get in there and feel it out.”

The seven inactive players include rookie running back Mike Davis, who presumably was competing with Hayne to play in today’s game. The other inactives are cornerback Shareece Wright, receiver DeAndrew White, nose tackle Mike Purcell, guard Brandon Thomas, center Nick Easton and outside linebacker Corey Lemonier.

That means rookie draft picks Ian Silberman and Trent Brown will be the backups on the offensive line -- Silberman at center and guard and Brown at right tackle. Fellow rookie Eli Harold will be the backup outside linebacker. Lemonier, a third-round pick in 2013, had appeared in every 49ers game the last two seasons.

As for Hayne, the coaches' concerns about the first-time footballer didn't center around his ability to field punts. He performed a similar function with the Parramatta Eels of the National Rugby League in Australia.

Instead, they wondered how he would fare if he were pressed into action as a running back or was asked to appear on some of the 49ers' coverage units.

Hayne displayed good speed and ability to cut-back on would-be tacklers when given a chance at tailback. His 7-yard average in the preseason was the best among his position group and his 53-yard run in the preseason opener was the longest of the summer season for San Francisco.

He also proved to Jim Tomsula and others that he could lower his shoulder and lower the boom against oncoming tacklers as he did to Chargers cornerback Lowell Rose in the preseason finale.

“I’m not going to disrespect any other player," Tomsula said of the encounter. "But I will tell you that I think Jarryd is a tough guy.”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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