San Francisco 49ers

Jarryd Hayne “definitely” returning to NFL in 2016

49ers running back said he wants to resume his quest to make a splash in the NFL next season
49ers running back said he wants to resume his quest to make a splash in the NFL next season The Bee

SANTA CLARA -- Jarryd Hayne said Friday he’s looking forward to getting back to Australia, enjoying the sun and taking in a couple of National Rugby League matches when the season opens in March. But the Aussie remains committed to his quest to make a splash in the NFL.

"Oh definitely. It's been exciting," Hayne said when asked if he’s coming back in 2016. "To come this far in seven months, give me 12, 14 (and) it's going to be completely different. And I think anyone who's seen my growth will tell you how much I've changed and developed. And it's always funny, looking at old film, it's one of those awkward things ... 'What was I thinking? Or, 'What was I doing?' It's hilarious."

Hayne was a staple of every NFL highlight show during the preseason when his quick first step as a punt returner and running back earned him big gains. Those plays also earned him an early spot on San Francisco's 53-man roster. But he didn't show those flashes when the regular season began.

Instead he flubbed a couple of punts and received scant snaps as a running back. When the 49ers suffered a series of injuries at the position in late October, instead of increasing Hayne's role, they sent him to the practice squad.

Hayne said he doesn't resent the demotion. In fact, he said it's allowed him to take a lot more practice repetitions -- both on offense and defense -- by lining up on the scout or look team.

"Fitness-wise, I feel great," he said. "There were literally times where I didn't get off the field. I'd go from O to D to O to D and to special teams. I've enjoyed it. I've embraced every step."

Hayne said he's lined up at safety and wide receiver in addition to running back in recent months. Spending time at those varied positions, he said, has given him a broader view of the sport, which obviously was lacking when he began with the 49ers last year.

"You can’t throw in 18 years’ worth of (football) situations in six months," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr. said this week. "It takes 21 years to become 21 years old. That’s just the reality of it."

When the season ends, the 49ers likely will offer most of their practice-squad players a reserve/future contract, which would lock them onto the team when the new league year begins in March. Hayne said he hasn't thought about that step yet.

"No, that's not my concern at the moment," he said. "There's three weeks left and I'm looking forward to getting back into the sun."

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

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