SANTA CLARA – Coach Jim Tomsula expressed confidence in Jarryd Hayne’s ability to handle punts. But that does not ensure Hayne will be active for the 49ers’ regular-season opener Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, he said.
All 53 players on the 49ers’ roster are apparently healthy and available to play, Tomsula suggested. But every team must submit a list of seven inactive players 90 minutes prior to kick off. It's not a guarantee Hayne will be in uniform for the opener.
“(I’m) very confident in his ability to field a punt,” Tomsula said on Thursday morning. “But you start talking about the 46. How much can you do for the team? With the schematic that we’re installing, how are you practicing within that scheme? The things that we’re practicing this week, do they fit your skill set? That’s where that all comes to in my head.
“Special teams, OK, if you can catch a punt, but can you do other things? What else can you do in special teams?”
Hayne has shown an ability to cover kicks and punts, but it’s uncertain where he rates in that area within the team. Bruce Ellington, Reggie Bush and rookie wide receiver DeAndrew White, along with Hayne, are the top options in the 49ers’ return game.
Tomsula said it’s a priority to continue to develop young players during the season – something that often takes a backseat to the week-to-week preparations to face the upcoming opponent. And with just four exhibition games of American football in his life, Hayne still has a lot to learn.
“We have to stay on the development side, those techniques, those fundamentals, that has to stay on course and stay on that road,” Tomsula said. “That first year for all rookie players is, that’s the line you balance? How much do you give them? How much don’t? When is it time?
“Obviously, Jarryd has the body position, the balance, the leverage points and all those things he has. That’s proven. Now, how to use them and when to use them? Blocking. Pass protections. From where he was to where he is, is terrific. I guess that’s why I temper all this speculation. I don’t want to take anything away from what the man has achieved, but all he’s achieved is an opportunity to be in the locker room. That has to continue.”
Tomsula said he is confident that Hayne will continue to progress and learn the game after deciding at the age of 27 to leave behind his career as a star in Australia’s National Rugby League to attempt an NFL career.
“He’s the kind of guy that will do that,” Tomsula said. “You feel confident he will continue to ascend with his approach and the way he does things. . . I don’t want to be the guy downplaying his accomplishment or the excitement for the country, but it’s in a place.”