SANTA CLARA (AP) — Jarryd Hayne has found himself discussing snakes, kangaroos and koalas — all things Aussie — in the middle of San Francisco’s locker room right along with the routes and responsibilities from his daunting new NFL playbook.
One 49ers teammate asked the former rugby star-turned-running back about “the deadliest animals in Australia” and all other creatures from Down Under.
He is good-natured about it all.
“With Australia being so far away as well, there’s always a bit of misconception of what it’s like from an animal perspective,” Hayne said Wednesday. “A couple of the boys, with snakes, lizards, spiders, there have been a whole bunch of questions what Australia’s like. I kid around sometimes, kangaroos, koalas, we’re always feeding them.”
The Niners are getting a kick out of his thick accent, too. Not to mention all the great expressions he brings.
“Rubbish shot,” Hayne hollered recently while playing a little pingpong in his new surroundings.
A couple of his teammates, cracking up, repeated the phrase in good fun.
Hayne is living in a hotel for now, but plans to soon start looking for an apartment. He will look to lease his own car, too, and turn in the rental.
“I’ve just really been embracing it, every situation I’ve been in,” he said. “Most of the time you can’t prepare for it. You have to go with it and do your best.”
The 27-year-old Hayne decided last year to give up his career in the Australian National Rugby League to chase his NFL dream across the world. He will compete for a job as a running back and return man on special teams.
Hayne already considers American coffee to be rubbish and told wide receiver Jerome Simpson he would soon bring his own “real coffee” from Australia to share.
Hayne has been training with the 49ers for a few weeks now, but is on the field with the coaching staff this week for a voluntary minicamp. On Tuesday, he woke up at 6:30 a.m. and finally went to bed at 11:30 p.m. to dedicate himself to football and the hours of studying that come with it.
“I’ll get comfortable one day and the next day it completely changes. Those are the things I’ve got to get used to, that’s part of the journey,” he said, with a dozen or so Australian journalists eagerly soaking up his every experience in the U.S. “Physically that’s not a concern. It’s just the playbook and knowing where to be at the right time. I know what I’m here for.”
Hayne spent the past nine years - from 2006-14 - with the Parramatta Eels.
He accumulated a long list of achievements, winning several Dally M Awards given to the best and most fair player in the National Rugby League for the regular season. He was named Player of the Year, Best Fullback, Top Tryscorer and Representative Player.
No accolades or nickname yet in his new home.
“I thought I was going to get Skippy or Aussie, but it’s just Jarryd, which is even unique because at Parra everyone had a nickname,” he said with a chuckle. “The Aussie slang is so much different. Here in America I just get Jarryd.”
They do know he has some credentials to fall back on as he undertakes the challenge of a new sport. A “couple of the boys,” as he refers to them, have caught some highlights on YouTube.
“I didn’t really know, but he’s the man out there. It’s pretty cool,” wideout Torrey Smith said. “Everyone loves him around here. He’s a great guy, so it’d be hard not to.”
NOTES: LB NaVorro Bowman returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time since his devastating left knee injury in the NFC championship game following the 2013 season. Bowman said he didn’t have many limits to what he could do.
... LB Michael Wilhoite said there’s no update on a contract extension mentioned publicly by general manager Trent Baalke. “I’m going to be here, so I’m always hopeful,” Wilhoite said.