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NAPA – D.J. Hayden tried to pull a fast one on the Raiders coaching staff. Almost got away with it, too.
The rookie cornerback taken No. 12 overall took the field Monday in a regular, black practice jersey. It took a beat before his coaches realized he wasn’t wearing the non-contact jersey forced upon him by a team limiting punishment on their first-round pick.
Before long, however, Hayden was back in red.
“I tried to sneak out there without being noticed, but somebody noticed something wasn’t right,” Hayden said. “It was a bummer.” The Raiders allow Hayden to play with some physicality, but Hayden desperately wants coaches to take the leash off and let him run.
“He wants to go,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I think that’s the great thing about him. That speaks to the type of guys that we’re trying to bring in here, guys that love playing football. He wants to practice and play. D.J.’s that type of guy and I’m excited about the fact that he’s ready mentally and physically. But we’re going to take a little bit of time and stay on the cautious side of things and make sure he’s totally ready before we put him in a contact drill.”
Hayden’s been playing physical in the reps he’s getting. He looks comfortable doing everything required of a cornerback, and sneaks in some shots before the whistle blows.
“I’m really doing everything I would normally do, but I’m doing it with a red jersey on,” Hayden said. “It feels good to just come out and play football, when you’re in the middle of a play, you don’t hold back at all. I feel great, and I’m ready to go.”
Allen said that Hayden will play during the preseason. He reps will increase over time, but the team isn’t comfortable letting him be a full participant yet, despite Hayden’s desire to do so.
Lingering effects of November’s ruptured vena cava or May’s abdominal surgery seem to be gone, so much so that it’s doubtful Hayden will be hindered by past health issues in the future.
“Really, I don’t foresee any issues with that,” Allen said. “When you talk to doctors and when you talk to D.J., I think he’s fine.”