SANTA CLARA – Jarryd Hayne’s workload has increased significantly since his demotion from the 49ers’ 53-man roster to the practice squad three weeks ago.
Not only is Hayne taking every snap at running back with the scout team -- giving the 49ers' first-team defense an approximation of the opponent's offense in practices – but he has also spent a large amount of time lining up at safety with the scout-team defense due to the injuries in the 49ers’ defensive backfield.
While Hayne said he is resolved to continue his career in American football beyond this season, he has no desire to switch positions to the defensive side.
“Especially not free safety,” Hayne said, laughing, on Friday. “I had to be (Seattle Seahawks safety) Earl Thomas all week, and just those long routes, you got to case people down, it’s just . . . yeah . . . chasing Bruce Ellington, nah, that’s just not my thing.”
Hayne has made a remarkable journey from being a star in Australia’s National Rugby League to earning a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster at the beginning of the regular season in less than a year.
But the 49ers determined they needed a more-polished running back on the roster who was not still learning the sport, they decided to waive Hayne and promote Kendall Gaskins from the practice squad. Hayne was not claimed off waivers, and he signed with the 49ers’ practice squad on Nov. 2.
Hayne appeared in the 49ers’ first six games. He rushed for 25 yards on eight rushing attempts. He also averaged 9.5 yards on eight punt returns with five fair catches and one lost fumble. On Sunday, he will watch from the sideline for the third consecutive game when the 49ers face the Seahawks.
When asked if the 49ers had any intention of bringing Hayne back to the active roster in the foreseeable future, coach Jim Tomsula said, “Well, not for this game. My foreseeable future is Sunday.”
Hayne, meanwhile, confirmed his future consists entirely of a devotion to better learn and improve as a football player. This week, the Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers of the NRL both confirmed in Australia media reports they would aggressively attempt to sign Hayne if he were to return to Australia to resume his career.
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But Hayne, who turns 28 in February, said any suggestion he is ready to abandon his quest for an NFL career after just one season is ludicrous.
“I think if I was going to go back, I wouldn’t even come,” he said. “So it’s a stupid question. I guess the media back home is just trying to make stories and use my name to make headlines. I think it’s just foolish for any fools to believe that.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that teams would want me back there. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that. But I think with everything that I’ve done, I’m not even sure why it’s still a question. It’s stupid for people to actually believe it.”
Hayne said he already recognizes the huge strides he has made in such a short period of time, as far as his understanding of the game.
“I always look at old tape and see what I used to do, it always makes me laugh. ‘What was I thinking? What was I doing?’ So I’m always getting better,” he said. “I’m one of those athletes that can adapt to anything. You don’t do what I’ve done based on talent. You do it by being smarter and understanding certain concepts.
“I just want to learn obviously the basics and all the schemes here first. I know them. It’s just getting them down-pat, and being more comfortable. For me, it’s not about understanding anything or learning something I don’t know, it’s being fluent with it, and for it to come second-nature.”