San Francisco 49ers Legend Roger Craig’s Advice For Jarryd Hayne
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Sporting News NFL editor Vinnie Iyer previews the upcoming NFL season and the addition of former NRL player Jarryd Hayne to the San Francisco 49ers roster.
Craig, who was inducted into the 49ers hall of fame in 2011, has a lot of admiration for what Hayne has managed to do in such a short period of time at the 49ers, dominating the headlines with his pre-season heroics.
But Craig – the first running back to gain more than 1000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season (1987) – insists Hayne is in for an eye-opening experience if he takes to Levi’s Stadium in Monday night’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings (Tuesday, 12.15pm AEST).
“The real bullets will be shot next week,” Craig told Fairfax Media.
“That’s when you get a gauge of who’s good and who’s not good. Real bullets will be shot next week, the pre-season is all blanks. He’ll get his opportunities but I wouldn’t get too excited. Let him feel the moment and feel his way in. Now he has to take his game to another level. Now he has to compete with the big boys.
“You’re playing against the guys who play the game for money who get paid big dollars and playing for contracts, that’s a different ball game. That’s where the bullets come in. The NFL is another world. It’s a different kind of beast. You have guys who can take your head off. You have to have courage, and I like his courage. What we’ve seen from is great, but this is the next level.”
Coach Jim Tomsula remains tight-lipped about Hayne’s involvement, if any, against the Vikings on Monday night.
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However Craig expects Hayne to be used sparingly as he adjusts to the rigours of the NFL.
“They’re going to pick and choose what plays he’s going to run because they know he’s not ready yet,” Craig said.
“You can’t do it overnight. There’s too much at stake. You can’t get your quarterback hurt. You have to make sure he understands to pick up defences, pick up blitzes. It’s really a lot to know, man, that’s all I can tell you. It doesn’t come overnight. Trust me, there’s a lot of people who think they can play. It’s harder than it looks.”
Craig paid tribute to the toughness of Australian athletes like NBA stars Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova, admitting Hayne showed and will need to continue to show those qualities if he is to be a success in the NFL
The NFL is another world. It’s a different kind of beast. You have guys who can take your head off. You have to have courage, and I like his courage.
While the 55-year-old said there was a lot to like about Hayne’s special talent, he conceded he was still concerned about his running style and the likelihood of picking up an injury.
“He has to learn how to lean a little more if he’s going to be a running back because he runs too high,” Craig said.
“That’s the only thing I can see he does that he can really get injured. Playing with helmets, they are weapons. He has to get used to protecting himself, that’s the thing I worry about him the most. In rugby they don’t wear helmets so he doesn’t have to worry about someone spearing him or hitting him head on.”
While the decision to take a gamble on Hayne was made by Tomsula and general manager Trent Baalke, the man that’s worked closest with Hayne is running backs coach Tom Rathman.
Craig played with Rathman at college and NFL level and believes he’s the perfect mentor to ensure Hayne’s development continues on the same path.
“If there’s any organisation that gives people a chance, it’s the 49ers,” Craig said.
“They give people who come from other sports a chance to try and make the team. He’s done a great job, played with a lot of intensity and spirit. That’s what you need to catch eyes. He’ll have a successful career if he stays with Tom Rathman.
“Tom Rathman is his coach and he blocked for me when I played in college. He understands the dynamics of hard work and technique that will make Jarryd a great player one day. It’s good to see a kid come in and take advantage of the opportunity because most guys don’t do that. They get their opportunity and blow it.