Jarryd Hayne - Why I left the NFL

Jarryd Hayne had mixed experiences with the San Francisco 49ers. Photo / Getty
Jarryd Hayne had mixed experiences with the San Francisco 49ers. Photo / Getty

Jarryd Hayne has ended the speculation by telling us all why he quit the NFL.

In May, the 28-year-old spectacularly left the San Francisco 49ers to play Rugby Sevens in a bid to win an Olympic berth with the Fijian team.

While some thought he may have been tapped on the shoulder by new 49ers coach Chip Kelly and told he wasn't going to make the final cut, Hayne has put this theory to bed when speaking on The Locker Room podcast, saying his reasoning revolved around game time.

"I need to be getting game time and you just can't get that over there (in the NFL) because of the way it works," Hayne said.

"The offence is only on for a certain amount of time and then there's five other running backs.

"If there was a second division team where I could get those mental reps of being on the field, 100 per cent I'd go back to the NFL.

"I'm at the end of my career where I really (have) just got to get on the field.

I just want to be on the field. I've played eight games in two years.

"If I went back there to the NFL it'd be one of those things where I'd be a second or third string guy helping out but not really getting a lot of game time."

Hayne starred in the pre-season for San Francisco, surprising his new American audience, particularly with his kick returns. But he found out the hard way pre-season form doesn't mean anything when you hit the big time.

Of the eight games he played, the former Parramatta Eel had just 17 carries for 52 rushing yards as a running back, made 27 yards as a receiver and 76 yards from eight kick returns, according to NFL.com.

While there are some who have criticised Hayne and his penchant for following his "dreams", he said going over to the US had nothing to do with becoming a big name in a second country.

"From my NFL experience it wasn't about fame or money, it was about an opportunity," he said.

"People get opportunities in life and the door only opens for so long."

When news broke of his decision to try and get on a plane to Rio, those same critics rolled their eyes as the Hayne Plane once again gained the attention of Australian sports fans. But clearly he doesn't care, saying even though he didn't make the Olympic squad, his time in the set-up was still well spent because of how he could help his teammates.

"When I went back to Fiji, it gave me that passion and fire to really help back there and help the guys get contracts," Hayne said.

"One of the boys that didn't make it (in the sevens side), I'm in negotiations to get him over here now.

"God's purpose in life doesn't mean you're putting a medal around your neck or lifting a trophy, it means you're doing something for someone else. That's where I see the Rio journey."

The Aussie made a hash of his first touch in the NFL when he fumbled a punt, and from then he had far fewer opportunities on special teams, preferred mainly as a running back by then-coach Jim Tomsula.

Carlos Hyde was ahead of him in the pecking order of running backs, while he also faced serious competition from the likes of Mike Davis and DuJuan Harris. The lack of game time meant he clearly didn't think he would have the opportunity to improve enough to oust his more experienced teammates.

Fair enough, too. How many league converts have gone to rugby union only to be bored on the wing because they barely get to touch the ball? It's a similar scenario here for Hayne with the NFL.

After joining the Fiji Sevens squad, the ex-Kangaroo again struggled for game time. Debuting at the final event of the World Series in London, he managed just 11 minutes after coming off the bench in each of Fiji's matches.

When Hayne was cut from the Fiji squad - ending his Olympic dream - debate raged about what his future held. Parramatta would love to see him return to Sydney's west in the NRL - and they would nearly have room for him under the salary cap after Kieran Foran's shock walk-out earlier this year - while talk of yet another code switch to rugby's 15-a-side format abounded.

He has met with ARU officials in recent times, but the NSW Waratahs recently passed on signing the gun athlete.

It has since been reported he may be to off to French rugby, possibly with Toulon - the former side of Aussie playmaker Quade Cooper.

- news.com.au

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