SANTA CLARA -– Jarryd Hayne’s status remains uncertain for the 49ers’ season opener on Monday night, but his role in practice Thursday was obvious.
Hayne was not wearing No. 38. He donned No. 44 for practice. Of course, Hayne remains No. 38 with the 49ers, but his main assignment during practice this week is to play the part of Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata on the scout team.
Coach Jim Tomsula and special-teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spent the earlier part of Thursday suggesting that Hayne might not be one of the 49ers’ 46 active players for the opener Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
An Australian reporter suggested to McGaughey, jokingly, that his country might declare war if Hayne does not suit up for the game.
“You know what?” McGaughey said. “I’m aware of that.”
McGaughey went on to describe Hayne as a “young player that needs to mature a little bit as far as just getting experience.” Hayne’s entire American football career consists of just four exhibition games this summer.
The 49ers list Reggie Bush, Bruce Ellington and Hayne as punt returners on their depth chart, while Bush, Hayne and DeAndrew White are mentioned on kickoff returns. Bush said he still believes he is a factor in the return game.
“You’ll see Monday night,” said Bush, who has not returned a punt in a regular-season game since 2011.
The 49ers averaged 17.8 yards as a team on punt returns during the exhibition season. McGaughey said the blocking is a major reason for the success in that area.
“Everybody is flying the Hayne plane right now, but if you look at who led our team in punt returns in the preseason, it wasn’t Jarryd Hayne,” McGaughey said. “It was DeAndrew White.”
White averaged 22.8 yards on five returns, while Hayne averaged 18.1 yards on nine attempts.