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49ers’ Jarryd Hayne on his old film: ‘What was I thinking?’

San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle 23/12/2015 Eric Branch

Jarryd Hayne has developed since being demoted.

That was the football neophyte’s message when he recently detailed how he’s spent his time since he was released by the 49ers and then signed to their practice squad in early November.

Hayne, of course, is a former Australian rugby league star who is a national figure back home. And he gained gobs of notoriety during his stunning preseason debut as a running back and punt returner. However, he’s spent the past month-and-a-half in obscurity: As a member of the practice squad, Hayne has played a variety of positions - running back, wide receiver, safety and linebacker - with the scout team.

The unglamorous existence has been invaluable for a rookie who first donned a football helmet eight months ago.

“I just feel like in these short six weeks that I’ve been on the practice squad, I learned so much,” Hayne said. “There was two weeks where I literally took every single (snap) on the (scout team). That was huge. The most reps I took in a row before that was probably three or four.”

Unfortunately for the fans who decried his release, it doesn’t appear the new-and-improved Hayne will be unveiled until 2016. On Tuesday, the 49ers, who have a banged-up backfield, signed a practice-squad running back, but it wasn’t Hayne.

Instead, they picked up DuJuan Harris from the Ravens’ practice squad and released running back Travaris Cadet. The moves were made after starting running back Shaun Draughn exited in the second quarter of a 24-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday with a knee injury. Draughn had an MRI on Monday which revealed he did not sustain a significant injury, a source said. However, he is day-to-day and is status is in question for the 49ers’ visit to Detroit on Sunday.

The 49ers presumably waived Cadet, who was signed Nov. 10, because of his lack of versatility. He is primarily known as a pass-catcher: Cadet has 53 receptions and 18 carries in his five-year career. Meanwhile, Harris, 27, has 312 yards on 80 carries and four receptions for 32 yards in a five-year career that’s included stops with six NFL teams.

So why not simply promote Hayne? Last week, special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey offered some insight into the 49ers’ thinking regarding a rookie who ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards (175), third in yards per carry (7.0) and averaged 18.1 yards on nine punt returns in the preseason.

McGaughey suggested the 49ers thought Hayne could contribute primarily as a punt returner, but decided he needed more seasoning when his summer success didn’t translate to the regular season. Hayne averaged 9.5 yards on eight returns, but had three fumbles.

“You can’t throw in 18-years’ worth of situations in six months,” McGaughey said. “It takes 21 years old to become 21 years old. That’s just the reality of it.”

Hayne acknowledged it was difficult to get released, but he quickly committed to a glass-if-half-full outlook. His goal when he signed with the 49ers? To make the practice squad in his first season.

“You kind of say, ‘Well, at the start of the year, this is where I wanted to be. This is the big goal for me just to be on the practice squad,’” Hayne said. “So be able to play six (regular-season) games and still be here, it’s definitely been a great year. I overachieved what I ever expected. I think what people don’t realize that, every day for me is like a month to everyone else, because of the way I pick things up and the way I learn.”

Hayne will return to Australia in the offseason, but is “definitely” returning for a second season in the NFL. And it’s clear he has loftier goals in mind for 2016.

“If I can come this far in seven months, give me 12 or 14,” Hayne said. “It’s just going to be completely different. It’s always funny looking at old film. It’s just one of those awkward things. It feels like it’s been about five years ago. It’s like ‘What was I thinking? What was I doing?’ It’s hilarious.”

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