San Francisco 49ers returner and running back Jarryd Hayne chatted with the media for the first time since immediately after his strong debut performance last Saturday. He focused on areas he can improve, including things like selling play action better. The most interesting part of the Q&A might have been his discussion of the fair catch signal. He went into some detail about how he would decide on a fair catch. Special teams coach Thomas McGaughey called him fearless in an early session, but Hayne does realize the fair catch is an important tool in his arsenal as a punt returner.
Hayne got a lot of work at running back on Saturday, in part because Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter did not play. Hunter is back at practice, but it is not known what kind of work he will get in this Sunday. Jim Tomsula is likely meeting with the media after Friday's practice, so I am sure he will get some questions about playing time.
Hayne's debut likely means more opportunities on Sunday. There was never a question about his athleticism, but seeing him in pads in normal game action was a big step forward. Now it's a matter of building on that, particularly in things like play action and running between the tackles. The more he can do, the better his roster chances. That Saturday performance was just one game, but it has him on the radar now.
On where he can improve:
Oh definitely. I think a couple of my play actions, just selling it a bit better. Just little bits and pieces that we spoke about after the game. A lot to improve on, just being a lot more crisp.
On running in pads and helmet:
I've been doing it for a while now, so I'm a bit used to it. Being that it was the first game, it was going be that challenge to see what would happen, but I felt comfortable out there and I think it showed.
On taking shot on reception when defender tried to dislodge the ball:
Umm, yea, I'm obviously the last shakedown on that play, and the linebacker made a read and it was the right read. I think for me it was one of those things, and I explained to Blaine after, I could maybe run into the ball or do something a bit different. Those are just, it's just a play you should have caught.
On ball security and carrying ball in NFL vs. rugby league:
Yea it is, because it's a lot smaller. You've always been taught high and tight, but ball security is big in rugby league as well. It's not like we went out there to not control the ball either.
Can't hear question:
Definitely in traffic, you want to secure the ball, and make sure it doesn't come out.
On pass play that probably would have been a loss:
Obviously I want to catch it, if the ball's coming my way you always want to catch
On his understanding of a fair catch:
You stick your hand in the air and they can't touch you.
On if he would be choose to make a fair catch:
Yea, definitely. I had an opportunity to do it, but I backed my ability, I felt comfortable to catch the ball and get out of the way. It was close, especially that second one, but I felt the position I put my body in, I was comfortable to catch and then move straight away. It was close. I kind of contemplated putting it up, but I felt comfortable, and obviously if I think it will be a fair catch, I'll throw the hand up.
On whether he sees or feels it's time for fair catch:
I see it. Obviously when the ball goes up, you try to get that early read. If it's a ball that we kind of know where it's going to land, I'll have a look at the defense and just predict how close they'll be. And even when I've got my eye on the ball, it's kind of just instinct, just feel/see how far away he is.
On surprises of first game compared to what he envisioned:
It's still preseason, so it's not the same squad out there every rep. There's a lot of changes, there's a lot of different schemes that are coming. I think for me I'm just kind of more concerned about my game, and getting everything I'm coached, and taking it to the field. That's probably my concern at the moment.
On things easier than he thought, things harder than he thought:
Everything from the way I run routes, to the way I handle the ball, to picking up blitzes as a whole, for me, there's a whole bunch of things I need to not only get used to, but get better at as well. For me, it's about just working on those things, those areas. And it's the whole thing, it's not just one or two things I need to work on. It's pretty much everything as a running back and as a kick returner.
On reinforcing he can make the change:
I was always confident. For me, I didn't need a play to have that confidence. It's just one of those things that, good or bad, I was always going to have to work on something. And I was fortunate enough to have a couple good plays, and for me, it's about Dallas this week and being consistent in what I do.
On excitement in Australia:
Yea, definitely. There's huge amounts of excitement back in Australia. Definitely friends and family that have been along for the journey as well. They're ecstatic not only to see me play, but I guess to see me do well. Obviously it's a huge thing that I've done with taking that chance. And so they find a lot of joy in it as well, probably a bit more than me.
On if it keeps him going being here alone:
Oh look because we're in training camp, we're around the boys 24/7. Meetings, the whole day, then we're in the hotel together. That's probably the best thing. Just everyone's always around each other. If we're not playing FIFA, we're in meetings. If we're not in meetings we're doing something else. That's been great, to be able to I guess just muck around with the lads and not get that homesickness.
On being instinctual in open field, and improving in tighter spaces with more reps:
Oh definitely, just getting the schemes we're running as well. Our blockers, where they're going, who they're trying to take away for me. There's a whole bunch of things that I'm getting used to as well. Every time something goes wrong or I see something, I'm gonna straight on to it and try and do it to the best of my ability. And it's, I really enjoy that stuff. I really enjoy when you see a blocker open a gap for you, and being able to take it, and understand the blocking scheme. Probably the biggest thing, being a running back, you just want to not lose yards. And you want to make as many yards as fast as you can. But sometimes you need to be patient and wait for the holes to open up.
On if his best chance to make his name is on special teams:
Oh yea, definitely. Like I said, I'm far away from being a crisp running back. And returning punts and kickoffs is the thing that I'm most natural at. But for me, I've got to work on my whole game. There's not just one or two things I need to work on, it's everything.
On differences in body shape when he first arrived in Arizona to work with Colin Kaepernick:
Not really. That didn't stand out to me. I was more just worried about getting in and understanding the passing concepts and just working with Kap. That was the start of a big move, and to come, for Kap just to welcome me with open arms was huge. It's something that I'm very grateful for. And all the boys that were there at EXOS were great. They all helped me out as much as they could. They're all rooting for me as well, which is surprising.
On other Australian rugby league players interested in coming over:
I think, some of them actually watch the game and keep a close eye on it. Not so much the transition. It takes a lot, it takes more than just seeing someone on TV. You actually got to want to do it. And so, in saying that, there could be, maybe. None that have come to me seriously wanting to change.
On excitement about some of the skills he brings:
I'm not really worried about that. I'm just worried about working on my game and doing whatever I can for the team.
On stiff arm being something he had before:
Oh definitely, that's a huge advantage if you can get that technique down pat. It adds on yards, and if you can defend with a stiff arm, it's obviously going to create more opportunities downfield.
On talking with Lawrence Okoye about making the transition:
Lawrence has been great. When I first came, he really made sure I was alright. We were all working out at the facility at the same time. He's been awesome, he almost had two sacks there in that game. And obviously we keep a close eye on each other, and he's always watching my film, I watch his film, and what not. So he's been great. I think obviously we've still got that attitude of just learning every day. Being students of the game. And that's the biggest thing. For me, whatever happens, I just want to be able to say I gave it my best shot. I just want to learn the game as in depth and as much as I could.