Jarryd Hayne

Jarryd Hayne
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Jarryd Hayne, former 49ers RB, misses Fiji Olympic rugby team

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SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne has failed in his bid to win selection in the Fiji rugby sevens team to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Hayne pre-empted the scheduled announcement of the Fiji team with a Facebook post Monday saying his time with the Fiji squad “has ended.”

The former National Rugby League star who won a place on the 49ers roster as a rookie last year said he met with Fiji coach Ben Ryan last Friday and agreed he hasn’t done enough to win Olympic selection.

He is the second athlete with NFL experience to fail in a bid to make the Rio Olympics. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin previously missed the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team in the long jump.

“As much as I would have loved to go to Rio, I too knew I wasn’t ready yet,” Hayne said. “During my time with the team I pushed my body above and beyond. I used all my experience as a professional athlete and have tried every day and in every way possible to make this team and make it better but unfortunately, time has been against me.”

Fiji will start as favorite to win the gold medal at Rio de Janiero in the first Olympic rugby tournament since 1924. The Fijians won the World Sevens Series title in the season just ended, holding off South Africa and New Zealand, and have won the world championship of sevens in consecutive years.

Hayne was a late addition this season, after quitting the NFL, and struggled to adapt to the pace and fitness demands of sevens in which teams play several matches in tournaments which last two to three days.

“I’ve loved every minute of training with the Fiji Rugby 7s,” Hayne said. “Not only are they back-to-back world champions but they are a bunch of guys who have welcomed me into the team as one of their own family.”

Hayne, who has played rugby league for Australia, said his time with the Fiji team was “an amazing journey for me and a truly humbling experience.”

Hayne’s post suggests he won’t pursue his career in rugby sevens any further. Australian media reports suggest he is likely to return to the National Rugby League, though he is thought also to have been courted by Australian rugby union teams.

“For now, I’ll be in camp with the team until mid-week before heading back home to Sydney for some time out and will determine my next steps from there,” he said. “I’ll enjoy watching from afar and wish the team all the best of luck on their road to Rio.”

MORE: U.S. men draw Fiji in first Olympic rugby sevens tournament

Jarryd Hayne makes Fiji rugby team for World Series finale

Jarryd Hayne
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Jarryd Hayne, who retired after one NFL season to return to rugby and pursue the Olympics, made Fiji’s team for the final 2015-16 World Series leg in London this weekend.

That doesn’t mean Hayne will make the Olympic team, but it is obviously a more promising sign than if he was left off the 12-man World Series team. The 12-man Olympic team will be named some time after the London tournament.

Fiji will likely clinch its second straight World Series season title in London, which makes Hayne’s late pursuit of an Olympic place on the world’s best team all the more shocking.

Hayne, 28, announced his retirement as a San Francisco 49ers running back and return to rugby on Sunday.

He played in eight games in his rookie NFL season after spending the previous nine years playing in Australia’s National Rugby League.

Hayne was born in Australia but has a Fijian father and has represented Fiji internationally in the past.

MORE: Ebner, Isles not on U.S. roster in London

Record number of NFL players could compete at Rio Olympics

Jahvid Best
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In Olympic history, one athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience is believed to have competed at the Games — Herschel Walker in bobsled at the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics.

That number will very likely increase this summer.

At least five athletes who have played in the NFL are in the mix for Olympic spots between two sports — track and field and rugby.

If all five make it to the Olympics, they will break the record for NFL players at one Olympics, believed by Olympic historians to be the four at the Rome 1960 Games.

All four of those 1960 athletes, and all other NFL Olympians other than Walker, competed at the Games before they became NFL players.

Which makes this year’s crop all the more special:

Buffalo Bills wide receiver/long jumper Marquise Goodwin is the likeliest to qualify for Rio. He finished 10th at the London 2012 Games before playing in the NFL, took nearly three years off from long jumping and returned last year.

On Saturday, Goodwin leaped 8.45 meters, the farthest in the world this year. Goodwin will make his second Olympic team if he finishes in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 3 in Eugene, Ore.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps could also make his second Olympic track and field team. Demps, a 4x100m relay member in London, is sprinting for the first time in three years.

Demps ranks tied for seventh among U.S. men in the 100m this year. It’s likely the top six at the U.S. Olympic Trials, also on July 3, will be named to the Olympic 4x100m relay pool.

Then there’s former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who is reportedly trying to make the Saint Lucia Olympic track and field team in the 100m. Best’s status is complicated by a citizenship process.

In rugby, New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is going for the U.S. Olympic team. It was reported last month the head coach said Ebner had a “50-50” chance of making it.

A key will be whether Ebner is named to the 12-man U.S. team for this week’s World Series final leg in London. The Olympic team, which will be named some time after London, will also be 12 men.

Finally on Sunday, San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne announced his abrupt retirement from the NFL to pursue a place on Fiji’s Olympic rugby team.

That news was stunning, given Fiji is about to clinch its second straight World Series title and doesn’t appear to be in need of outside help given its World Series success.

MORE: Cam Newton’s show on Nickelodeon features several Olympic champions