Although Jarryd Hayne's exact role for Week 2 of the regular season is largely unknown, it's crystal clear the amount of confidence the San Francisco 49ers still have in their Australian import following his NFL debut – one that included a fumble on his first career touch.
"He's come leaps and bounds," Colin Kaepernick said on Thursday. "It's really hard to describe because it's such a unique situation. If I went over there and tried to play rugby (league), I'd probably be lost.
"So him coming over, being able to pick up football and the schemes that we have and what we're trying to ask him to do in such a short period of time has really been amazing."
After his inauspicious start in Monday night's 20-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Hayne got the opportunity to redeem himself when Reggie Bush left the game with a calf injury. Hayne took over as the second-string running back and carried the ball four times for 13 yards, including a long of nine yards. He also caught one pass for seven yards.
That post-turnover performance prompted two of Hayne's coaches to echo Kaepernick's sentiment.
"Everyone saw the first punt with Jarryd, but we thought offensively he kind of settled down just like any rookie and by the second half he was executing and being himself," offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said. "We didn't really back off of anything on the call sheet simply because it was Jarryd out there.
"We just felt like he was just another 49er that was in there and was going to execute whatever it is that we were going to call. I think that's a real compliment to him."
Added special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr.: "That's part of the maturation process of being in this league when you're a young guy. Young players make mistakes sometimes. They're trying to make plays or trying to do the things they were brought here to do and sometimes they get a little overzealous. But he'll be all right. It happens to the best of us."
Hayne told reporters on Thursday that his teammates' words of encouragement gave him a "huge boost." But that didn't stop the rookie from being frustrated by his miscue.
"Personally, I was very disappointed with the way I handled the ball," Hayne said. "Something, obviously, I've been preparing for and the outcome was devastating. The last thing I wanted to do was put more pressure on the team."
The punt, which came off the foot of Jeff Locke as the Vikings were backed up near their own goal line, got hung up in the air by a swirling wind. Hayne tried to adjust to the ball but could not track it in time to make a clean catch.
"If put in that situation again, it's something I've definitely learned from and if I can't get a clean catch, then I won't catch it," Hayne said.
After the game, Hayne became emotional when he posed for pictures with an Australian flag brought to Levi's® Stadium by a fan. The moment gave the former rugby league star a chance to reflect on how far he has come since arriving in America.
"I really don't look back on it too much. I just keep moving forward, but to see that flag really stirred up a lot of feelings and brought back a lot of memories of how far I've actually come," Hayne said. "It obviously brought a lot of joy to my heart, and it made my heart very warm.
"And I saw family and friends, too. We stayed up until 1 a.m. two nights ago talking about everything; the ups and downs, the journey. From sitting in a Hollywood café with nowhere to stay, to venturing down to San Diego and not knowing where we're going to stay and just hoping it all works out. It's been an incredible journey."
With many of the firsts now out of the way, Hayne is eager to get back on the field on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chryst suggested that if Bush is unable to play, Hayne would be Pierre Garçon's backup. As for the return game, McGaughey had no definite answer, only saying, "We'll see."
If Hayne does end up returning punts again, he'll be on the receiving end of a fellow Australian. Steelers punter Jordan Berry hails from Melbourne and, like the rest of his countrymen, has been tracking Hayne's progress with the 49ers.
"He's done an absolutely awesome job to get where he is," Berry told the Beaver County Times. "The preseason, he did really well in the return game. Had a bit of a shaky first play on the weekend, but he's a great player. Really happy for him to get as far as he has."