DENVER – The game has slowed down for American football neophyte Jarryd Hayne.
Well, at least the voice of 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman has slowed down for him.
Hayne described this week how overwhelming it was to attempt to make the transition from Australian rugby league star to a completely new sport at the age of 27 while being taught by an excitable, fast-talking former player.
Hayne followed American football from afar, but he still had to learn the intricacies of the sport, as well as the verbiage the 49ers use in their offensive playbook upon signing with the club in March.
“Probably the first two weeks, I was like, what's going on?” Hayne said this week after the 49ers concluded two days of practices against the Denver Broncos. “Everything was pretty much in one ear, out the other. There was so much going on, and I think anyone that's been coached by Tom Rathman, you know he does speak pretty fast, and he's very passionate about what he does. It took a bit of adjusting to understand him and get the concepts.
“But it's like anything, I just hung in there, and my faith has been at the center of all this. There's no way I was leaving. I was always going to fight those battles, and I did. There's been better days.”
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Two of Hayne’s better days have been in the 49ers’ first two exhibition games. Hayne leads the 49ers in rushing with 117 yards on 13 rushing attempts for a gaudy 9.0-yard average. He has also excelled on special teams with five punt returns (no fair catches) for a 21.6 average.
Hayne and the 49ers return to action Saturday night against the Broncos. His goals for this game is to keep things simple and be on-point with his assignments, he said.
“It's like every game,” Hayne said. “Go out there and do my job. Obviously, special teams, listen to the schemes, know where I got to be. As a running back, know what to do, know my protections and my routes.”
Aside from knowing the playbook, Hayne continues to work on the basics of being a running back. At 6 foot 2, 220 pounds, Hayne knows he must be able to make himself a smaller target for defensive players when he runs between the tackles.
“I still definitely got to get lower, and that's just part of the transition,” he said. “I know myself, when I run high and having to work on that technique, and getting low, being 6-2 is a disadvantage for me, being a taller running back.”