Rumors have had Jarryd Hayne talking with the Seahawks, so at his press conference yesterday, Pete Carroll was peppered with questions about the rugby league star who announced this week he's leaving Australia to chase his NFL dreams. He performed admirably, gushing about Hayne. The Seahawks PR guy then came out to tell the assembled media that Carroll had been joking, and that the coach had never heard of Hayne.
Australia seems very excited about Hayne, the 26-year-old reigning NRL player of the year, who is moving to Los Angeles to begin learning American football. He reportedly visited the Seahawks facilities last month, so reporters, both Australian and American, repeatedly asked Carroll about Hayne yesterday. Carroll did his best to praise the "incredible athlete and great competitor."
Other than that comment, though, Carroll was curiously vague.
"It's a pretty exciting thought; I've always thought it'd be cool to recruit down there because there are some great players and it's a great game and it's a very physical demanding game and those guys have all the same kind of stuff that we're looking for in our guys."
"They're great athletes—they run fast, they hit hard, and can handle the ball. The style of throwing and catching things is different; running routes is different than whipping it out there to them. So there's different stuff, but we're looking for great athletes to make the transition because our guys on our level are fantastic athletes."
Maybe reporters should have gotten the hint when Carroll claimed the Seahawks' "scout Down Under" has been pursuing this for a while. Or when he said he couldn't talk about this specific player because he wasn't clear on the NFL's tampering rules. Or maybe it was this:
After the press conference, the Seahawks' communications head Dave Pearson warned against reading too much into the coach's comments.
"He doesn't even know who the guy is," Pearson said.
Here's the audio of Carroll's answers about Hayne; he sounds like he kept a pretty straight face.
Hayne's probably not sweating the gag; his plan all along was to spend months training with an eye on impressing teams at next February's combine. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Hayne will likely project as a running back, but if he catches on, it's more likely to be as a kick or punt returner.
Here's his highlight reel. He's got a lot of highlights.