SANTA CLARA – At this point in Jarryd Hayne’s quest to earn a spot in the NFL, he is still in familiar territory.
“When you watch what we’re doing here, he’s still playing rugby,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “There are no pads here. He’s fielding balls and running around in shorts and a T-shirt.”
Hayne, 27, the former Australia rugby league star, ended his career last year to focus on attempting to play American football. Running backs coach Tom Rathman worked with him Friday on the proper footwork while taking handoffs from rookie quarterback Dylan Thompson.
Later, Hayne fielded punts from 49ers rookie Bradley Pinion on the team’s practice field. Ironically, Hayne muffed an end-over-end punt, called a rugby kick, that is used for dropping balls inside the 20-yard line.
Mostly, though, Hayne appeared to handle most of his opportunities with ease.
“Did you see him catching those punts?” Tomsula said. “It’s a little easier to catch a football than a rugby ball. The wind gets that rugby ball and that thing’s zig-zagging all over the place.”
Hayne is allowed to participate over the weekend in the 49ers’ rookie minicamp due to his first-year status. The 49ers might not know what they have in Hayne until the beginning of training camp in late-July when he puts on pads for the first time.
“Am I thrilled that he’s here? Absolutely,” Tomsula said. “He’s a neat dude. All that stuff’s great. He’s running around and learning his stuff. He’s dedicated and committed. He’s a pro. He’s been a pro for a long time.”
Tomsula downplayed any adjustment that Hayne might be experiencing after leaving Australia to embark on his new career.
“He’s not a little duckling,” Tomsula said. “This guy’s got his stuff together.”