Tim Tebow isn’t the only former pro baseball player to make a return to the NFL this offseason.
According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport on Thursday, May 20, former San Francisco 49ers running back Tyler Gaffney is signing a one-year contract with another one of his former teams, the New England Patriots.
Gaffney was most recently signed to the Niners practice squad on December 22, 2020, two days following the team’s 41-33 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. His contract was never renewed by San Francisco this offseason, leaving the 30-year-old as a free agent for the taking.
Tyler Gaffney last hit .194/.313/.298 with three homers in 51 games with @AltoonaCurve. He retired from baseball in March 2019.
Here’s his MiLB player page: https://t.co/arOKOzCKo6 https://t.co/ijuY7DfYpI
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) May 20, 2021
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Gaffney Retired From Baseball in 2019
Fun fact: Gaffney has never registered a single regular season snap in the NFL.
But the two-time Super Bowl champion has had quite the athletic career over the past decade.
A two-sport athlete on the Stanford football and baseball teams in 2010-11, Gaffney was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 24th round (736th overall) of the 2012 MLB draft. He went on to play 38 games of short-A ball where he batted .297 while posting five triples, 10 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and 31 runs in 111 at-bats.
In 2013, the 6-foot, 220-pound California native returned to Stanford for his senior season, setting the gridiron ablaze with 1,709 yards on 330 carries in 14 starts. That performance led to his being selected by the Carolina Panthers in sixth round (204th overall) of the 2014 NFL draft, where he was claimed off waivers by the Patriots that July. Gaffney spent the next four seasons bouncing around the Patriots practice squad before being scooped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars in August 2017 and then retiring from football in April 2018.
Instead, Gaffney returned to the baseball diamond where he split 89 games between the Pirates’ Advanced-A and Double-A clubs before also hanging up his spikes in March 2019.
Gaffney Faces Uphill Battle to Stick in New England Again
Representing the final player on the Patriots’ 90-man offseason roster, Gaffney will join a New England running back group headlined by Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Brandon Bolden and fourth-round addition Rhamondre Stevenson.
“Tyler — he’s a smart guy, very team-oriented,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters during a December 2016 press conference. “If you ask him to do something, he’s going to give you a great look. There’s nobody that takes more punches than he does. He must get punched in the stomach 10 times a day. The defense is trying to take the ball out. That’s his role. That’s his job. But they’re slapping at the ball, they’re pulling at it, they’re trying to punch it. Half the time they miss. He does a great job.”
About 3,000 miles away in the Bay Area, the 49ers’ 2021 group also features a diverse skill set between Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Wayne Gallman and a pair of 2021 draft picks: third-round Trey Sermon and sixth-rounder Elijah Mitchell.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on 49ers Facebook community for the latest out of the Bay Area!