Those eager to see the progress of San Francisco 49ers RB Jarryd Hayne entering his sophomore year in the league are going to be disappointed. The Australian import has announced his retirement from the NFL to follow another dream. The Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to Hayne about joining the team for the 2016 Summer Olympics, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
This marks the historic debut of the Rugby Sevens at the Summer Olympics and Hayne was obviously eager to be part of it. Rugby Union was last played at the 1924 Summer Olympics.
"I simply could not pass that chance up," Hayne said. "The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL." You can read Hayne's full statement at 49ers.com.
Update: A statement by former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency chief Richard Ings states that Hayne may not even be eligible to participate in the Olympics, per the Sydney Morning Herald. This has led to speculation that Hayne's departure from the NFL was prompted by the possibility of him not making the 49ers roster this season. However, CSN Bay Area reports that the leader of Fiji's Olympic Committee said their policies do not require athletes to go through a six-month period before representing the country, but that athletes may be subject to random testing.
Back in April, Hayne expressed his commitment to his NFL career, shooting down rumors by the Australian media of a possible return to the National Rugby League.
Hayne, who created a big 49ers following in Australia after joining the team in March of 2015, was on the active roster to start the 2015 season for six games before being deactivated prior to the San Francisco's first matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. He was waived the following week and when no other team claimed him, was signed to the 49ers' practice squad. He returned to the active roster in December, just prior to the 49ers' game against the Detroit Lions.
Hayne was a big Australian media storyline during the 2015 preseason. In 2014, he left a stellar career in the National Rugby League to chase his dream of playing in the NFL.
49ers head coach Chip Kelly, who is entering his first season with the team, had expressed interest in working with Hayne and spoke highly of him. "He's one of those guys, you get really excited to see what he can do and what type of jump he can make in Year 2 with a better understanding of how the game is played. But he certainly has a skillset that's intriguing," said Kelly at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Hayne has spent the past six weeks taking part in the 49ers' offseason program.
Last season, Hayne appeared in eight games, rushing for 52 yards on 17 carries. He also had six receptions for 27 yards and eight punt returns on special teams, averaging 9.5 yards per return.
The 49ers released the following statement regarding Hayne.
"We would like to thank Jarryd for his contributions to the San Francisco 49ers organization and our community over the last year," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality. He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game. We fully support Jarryd's decision to pursue another dream - representing the Fiji Rugby Sevens team in this summer's Olympic games. We look forward to watching him in Rio and wish him continued success."
The competition at the running back position would have been fierce following the selection of Kelvin Taylor out of Florida in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. The other running backs on the team are Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis, and DuJuan Harris.
If Hayne had made the team in 2016, it likely would have been as a returner, where he would have needed to compete against Bruce Ellington and DeAndrew White.