Jarryd Hayne recently confirmed what anyone who has ever watched an NFL game could easily discern. Being thrown into the role of a punt returner represented quite probably the most difficult situation possible for someone attempting to switch codes.
With no previous gridiron experience, Hayne was thrust into a role that has caused more than one highly experienced player to lose his job. Before the athletic ability to judge the flight trajectory of an unpredictable ball is factored into the equation, before the pressure of deciding whether to catch the ball, let it hit the ground, for call or a fair catch is considered, there is the intense pressure of being all alone in a situation that has major implications for the fortunes of the team.
A punter’s defensive teammates have just successfully forced the other team to relinquish the ball. Offensive teammates are eager to get on the field and attempt to drive the ball downfield for a score. A fumbled punt in this situation that is recovered by the kicking team deprives the defense of an opportunity to rest and gives the ball back to the opposing team in much better field position, which is a major reversal of expectations.
Hopefully, new San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly will trial Hayne at running back and receiver, positions that rely heavily on the skills that made Hayne an NRL standout.