San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula wouldn’t confirm it, but it appears Jarryd Hayne has played his way on to the NFL team.
“I don’t want to sit here and make statements and things like that today, but he’s definitely got himself into the conversation,” the burly Pennsylvania-born coach told reporters after Hayne’s latest performance.
It was a sombre Tomsula after the 49ers gave up a late lead to lose 19-12 to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos in Saturday’s third pre-season game.
On Tuesday the 49ers cut their 90-man roster to 75 and in a week Tomsula will settle on the 53-man squad that will play the NFL season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on September 14.
Hayne had to sit on the bench for almost three quarters in Denver waiting for an opportunity, but when it came the former Parramatta Eel again showed he had the talent, speed and power to play in the NFL.
Tomsula initially looked to his experienced running backs and punt returners – Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter, Bruce Ellington and Mike Davis – against the Broncos, with Hayne left on the sidelines.
With 3:22 left in the third quarter the 49ers tossed Hayne on for a punt return.
The Australian didn’t disappoint.
He caught the punt and charged forward for a 12-yard gain before being brought down by the Broncos’ Joe Duncan.
It wasn’t all pleasant for Hayne.
A short time after the punt return Hayne came in as a running back, 49ers’ back-up quarterback Blaine Gabbert offloaded the ball and the rugby league convert ran into the 188cm tall, 98kg Broncos strong safety David Bruton for no gain.
A few weeks ago 49ers’ special teams co-ordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr said he’d know if Hayne was capable of being an NFL player when he saw how he responded to being hit by an opponent in a helmet and pads.
Hayne has shown his toughness multiple times since and just 30 seconds after another Broncos enforcer, 191cm, 145kg nose tackle Darius Kilgo, and two other Broncos hit him for no gain, the Australian jumped up and was ready for more.
Hayne lined up beside Gabbert, put a move on a Broncos linebacker, got open in the centre of the field, caught a short pass from the quarterback and took off.
He split defenders and had just one to beat when he was brought down for an 18 yard gain.
Just as he was a multi-positional player in the NRL, Hayne’s versatility in the NFL by playing running back, on the special teams unit as a punt or kick returner or maybe as a wide receiver makes him highly valuable.
Tomsula would never admit to a room of reporters Hayne was a sure thing for the 53-man squad, but conceded a player who can play on special teams, as well as another position, is a sought after commodity.
“Obviously special teams value weighs very high when you’re talking about those spots,” he said.