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NAPA – D.J. Hayden warmed up prior to the Raiders exhibition at New Orleans, but wasn’t allowed to play.
“They teased me a little bit,” Hayden said. “It was like putting cookies in front of a kid and then saying, ‘Don’t eat them. Just look.’”
Hayden can feast in Friday’s exhibition against Chicago. His Raiders debut will include his first tackle since rupturing a blood vessel during a November practice at the University of Houston.
The cornerback taken No. 12 overall is excited about putting that first hit behind him.
He’s been talking about the moment for months, with every press interaction centered on his health, and the topic's worn thin. The rookie is ready to put all this behind him.
“We pushed through it. We fought through it, and we’re here now,” Hayden said. “I’m looking forward to the first hit. I just need to go out and do it. That’ll happen on Friday. I can’t wait.”
Sunday was Hayden’s first practice since being cleared for contact on Friday. He exchanged a red non-contact jersey for standard black, but the milestone was anticlimactic with the Raiders working in shells.
The team will practice in pads on Monday, but Hayden isn’t worried about the increase in physicality. He isn’t stressed about it.
He is concerned about the front flap worn to give added protection to his chest.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to wear it. It makes me look fat,” Hayden said. “I don’t want to look chubby out there. The flap makes me look like I have a beer belly.”