San Francisco 49ers punt returner and running back Jarryd Hayne fumbled his very first NFL touch, which if you're feeling positive is just another way to say that things can only get better from there. Things did get better in San Francisco's 20-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, even if Hayne didn't have a day that blew us away or anything like that
Hayne took another punt return after the one he fumbled, and while he didn't do anything with it I thought it was significant that he was back there at all. You have a guy playing in his first ever NFL game fumbling the ball on his first ever touch while playing a sport he's only been playing at any level for a couple months. A lesser coach would have pulled him entirely.
But I've said it once and I'll say it again, Hayne is a natural back there and the 49ers only have to stick with it. Let him know what he did wrong, fix the issue and then send him back out to make something happen in ways that only he can.
Hayne was eventually replaced by Bruce Ellington though, and while that worries some people, I'm not concerned. Reggie Bush sustained a calf injury in the game and with rookie Mike Davis inactive and Kendall Hunter on injured reserve, that left Hayne as the primary backup to starter Carlos Hyde.
With a gameplan centered around Hyde getting a ton of carries and feasting on Minnesota's defense, it made perfect sense to pull Hayne from returns and let him focus on running the ball. No, the fumbled return didn't help his case and he'll have a lot to work on for this coming week, but I don't believe the 49ers coaches are so reactionary that they're going to bench the guy after one play.
Head coach Jim Tomsula confirmed following the game that Hayne was pulled due to a shortage of running backs, calling it a "team effort." He also said that he was happy with Hayne's performance overall, saying that "something will go wrong" in football games, and you can't put too much stock in one thing that happened.
Hayne isn't the headline this week, but he's still an intriguing, talented player who could play a big role in San Francisco's success going forward. He looks close to breaking something big every time he carries or catches the football on offense as well. I don't want Bush out of the game going forward, but short passes to Hayne in space sounds like something the 49ers really need to mix in.