Jarryd Hayne has described as “false and pathetic” an Australian media report that alleged he had made the San Francisco 49ers’ 53-man squad.
The 49ers have until Saturday (Sunday AEST) to name the team, but a Rugby League Week column reported Hayne had already told family and friends he survived the final cut.
“This article is completely false and pathetic,” Hayne wrote in a Tweet addressed to family and friends.
“Disgusted that my hard work (and) dedication can lead someone to make up a story to try to grab headlines.”
The report came from Rugby League Week’s anonymous columnist The Mole and may have been given little credit, but it was picked up by a San Francisco radio station on Tuesday and 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula was asked about it.
Tomsula shot it down.
“I don’t know what the rules are in the media in Australia, but you might want to fact check,” Tomsula, adding the 53-man team is not set, said.
The report came as Hayne prepared for the 49ers’ last pre-season game to be played at the team’s 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday (midday Friday AEST).
A shaky game of dropped punts, fumbles at running back or miscommunication with the quarterback could rapidly have a black cloud over the former Parramatta Eels backline star.
But San Francisco media members covering the 49ers and former NFL greats say he is a certainty to be in the team’s red and metallic gold for the opening game of the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on September 14.
“He seems to be fearless,” Brian Mitchell, the NFL’s all-time leader in punt and kickoff return yards, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“And when people ask the question, ‘What makes a great returner?’ well, first of all, you have to be fearless.”
Hayne has been one of the revelations of the NFL’s pre-season and after three games is ranked third in the league in punt return yards and seventh in rushing.
It is as punt and kick returner where Hayne will likely earn his spot on the team, but in his way is Bruce Ellington, the team’s incumbent who has declared he will prove to the coaches he deserves to make the cut.
Mitchell, 47, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl champion with the Washington Redskins in 1992, says NFL players could learn from watching the rookie Hayne and his rugby league skills.
He likes how Hayne instinctively makes opponents miss tackling him; how he lowers his shoulder pads when he needs to; and switches the ball from hand to hand to fend off defenders.
“Even guys in American football, they don’t do it all the time,” Mitchell said.
“He switches the ball from one hand to the other and uses the other hand to stiff-arm.
“I think that’s a lost art in football.”