Jarryd Hayne will not be immediately rushed from the practice squad back into the San Fransisco 49ers team proper, despite whispers to that effect earlier this week. That's the first thing you need to know.
The second thing you might be interested to learn is that San Fransisco has the worst offense in the entire NFL. They're the only outfit in a 32-team competition which gains less than 300 total yards per game. That's especially bad news for Hayne, because it suggests very strongly that the 49ers have lost faith in the former NRL star.
Here's a team that basically goes backwards on the field each week. Its punt returner turns every football into a cake of soap. Yet the Aussie attacking weapon who was THE story of the pre-season remains stuck down in the practice squad.
The 'Niners season is now effectively over. With a 3-8 win loss record and just five games to play, Act of God is pretty much the only player who can save the season from the sidelines. But Hayne couldn't hurt, surely. If the punt returner was worth a punt at the start of the season, why not risk him now?
The answer to this question lies in the mind of head coach Jim Tomsula, whose tenure is now the subject of speculation. The 49ers travel this week to Chicago to play the Bears. Here's what local paper the Chicago Tribune has to say in a preview piece:
Jim Tomsula replaced Jim Harbaugh in the head coaching chair. And it was noted as a breath of fresh air around the 49ers’ facility with the always congenial and good-natured Tomsula adapting a player-friendly leadership style that has been the polar opposite of his predecessor’s intense and cutthroat approach.
But while 49ers players like Tomsula and play hard for him, they’re not getting anywhere near the results they got under Harbaugh. And there’s a growing perception that the 49ers new head coach may be in over his head in his new role. In short, Tomsula just hasn’t been able to produce the same confidence or energy from his team as Harbaugh did.
Tomsula does indeed seem like a decent bloke. His manner is more dad than boss. He's got the smell about him of a guy who could have real long term success if the people around him don't undermine him, and if they give him enough time. Problem is, that doesn't usually happen in professional sport these days.
Tomsula needs results now. He needs to give his team's owners a reason to employ him for the rest of the season and beyond. The coach is working the percentages now instead of taking risks. Hayne, despite his undoubted brilliance with ball in his hand, is not a percentage option. Insiders say there's still too much about the game he needs to learn. Little things that most Australian viewers don't understand but which are crucial to the team.
But Hayne could learn quickly. Next year might be his year. Next week, we can say for certain, will not be his week. Punt returner Bruce Ellington will play against Chicago despite special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey's comments on Wednesday that the butter-fingered Ellington was "just one fumble away from being sacked".
"I hope he didn't say that," Tomsula told reporters on Thursday. "I'm sure he didn't say it like that."
He did, actually. But even if Ellington does have another bad week, don't bet on Tomsula rolling the Hayne dice again. Hayne also fumbled three punts in his six games earlier this year before being cut. Tomsula is a believer in Hayne. But right now, he's looking for the least volatile option. That's not Hayne.