The reality is that Hayne is still a long shot to make the 49ers, or any other team’s, final 53 man roster come opening day in September.
While some parts of the Australian media have trumpeted this signing as Hayne making it with the 49ers, this is far from the case. Some of the reporting of this story has been laughable, with suggestions that Detroit cut Running Back Reggie Bush to make room in their salary cap for Hayne. Really?
There are a number of hurdles Hayne is yet to jump through. These include Organised Team Workouts, mini camp, training camp and pre-season.
He can be cut at any time of this process, as anyone who watched the show Hard Knocks on Channel 7 last year will know. These cuts can be cruel and based on the tiniest little issue, even for those who have played the game for as long as Hayne has played Rugby League.
He will be up against players coming out of college and others who have been cut from other teams, all desperate to get their shot. They know the game inside and out and have played the game at, or near the highest level, giving them a big advantage over the rookie from down under.
At this stage of the game, its not about money for Hayne. The contract announced today guarantees him only $100,000, much less than if he had played the safe option and stayed in the NRL.
Sometimes the road less travelled is more rewarding.
Hayne needs to decide very quickly what position he wants to try out for. He is clearly too small for most defensive positions with the exception of Safety and Cornerback. These positions involve intimate knowledge of what a tight end or receiver will run.
On the offensive side of the ball he could really only be a Running Back or Wide Receiver. Running back appears to be his position of choice, but he is smaller than most of the good backs and just a tad slower. As he continues to change his body shape for the NFL game further speed can come. We all know he has unique running ability in tight and open spaces.
In my opinion, his best shot is to bring some of his most brilliant NRL skills to the NFL as a kick returner. Making the roster on Special Teams doesn’t mean he has to stay there. It could be a foot in the door and enable him more time to learn a more favoured position under the tutelage of the game’s best coaches and first hand from great backs, such as 49ers veteran Frank Gore.
I for one applaud him for having the guts to have a crack at it. I guess its a win-win scenario for him. He either makes it and hits the big time or he goes back to a big contract in the NRL.
Do I think he will make it? – no
Do I hope he does? – absolutely