Jarryd Hayne Settles into 49ers Punt Returner Role

Jarryd Hayne appears to have settled into his role as the starting punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers.

In Sunday's 17-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the 27-year-old rookie was treated like a veteran returner, too.

Packers punter Tim Masthay attempted six punts on the day. Three of those balls were placed out of bounds away from Hayne.

The rookie running back fair caught his second punt in the first quarter. The play also appeared to feature a Packers gunner making minor contact with Hayne.

When asked if he thought a flag would follow, Hayne said, "Yeah, that was surprising. As far as I know, the kicking team cannot touch the returner once he fair catches it. ... I saw the coaches on the sideline raise the question, but they did not make the call."

Hayne's third punt return was also challenging. Masthay's short 41-yard punt required Hayne to make a split-second judgement call.

"It was a late read," the rookie said. "I was going to 'poison it' and let it go, but I thought one of our guys, it might have hit him. So I just kind of went for it and threw my body in there. I was obviously hoping to catch it, but I think one of their gunners made a good play and nudged one of our boys into me and obivously knocking me off balance."

Safety L.J. McCray was pushed into Hayne, who had the ball bounce off his arms and roll into the field of play. Cornerback Dontae Johnson, however, was in position to recover the ball for San Francisco.

Hayne's best returns were on his first and fifth opportunity. They both went for six yards.

Entering Sunday, Masthay's most single-game attempts this season were the five punts he kicked in a Week 3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers strong defensive outing, which saw the home team hold the Packers to a season-low 17 points, also resulted in a busier day than normal for Green Bay's punter.

Hayne, however, did not get much of an opportunity to spark San Francisco's offense like he did a week before with a 37-yard return against the Arizona Cardinals. Nonetheless, the Australian import is averaging 9.3 yards on his six punt return attempts. Hayne's average is the sixth-best in the NFL as of Monday morning. His 37-yard return is also the eighth-longest of any NFL punt returner this season.

Hayne said he continues to soak up information.

"Like I always keep saying every week," the rookie began, "I'm learning and definitely always next to the running backs coach (Tom Rathman) and learning off him, and watching Carlos (Hyde) and Reggie (Bush) and watching them do their thing. The best thing I can do is always be there and be ready."

With the 49ers on a three-game slide, Hayne was asked to comment on how the club can overcome the losses.

"It's everyone just coming together," he said. "For me, I just personally make sure that I'm doing everything I can, and getting ready and doing what I have to for the team."

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