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ALAMEDA -- Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden is eligible to start practicing next week. Interim head coach Tony Sparano expects him to do so.
Hayden has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp recovering from foot surgery, and that designation mandates he skip the first six weeks of practice. He’s eligible to return next week but not required to. Hayden, however, is ready to go.
“We expect to see D.J. practice next week. That’s the plan,” Sparano said. “In regards to his treatment and everything else has been going on, he’s done a tremendous job. We’ll see what the timetable is (for a return to game action) once we get him out there. We have a couple weeks to make a decision.”
According to PUP rules, the Raiders have 21 days after Hayden starts practicing to put him on the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve. If he’s ready and productive, the Raiders could theoretically activate him right away.
That’s unlikely. When the regular season began, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said Hayden would have to practice well and earn the right to play in games.
Hayden was expected to start at cornerback opposite Tarell Brown this season, with Carlos Rogers playing slot corner in the nickel package. Hayden seemed primed to do so after an offseason where he gained five pounds of muscle and the confidence required to be aggressive in coverage.
Then Hayden suffered a stress fracture in his foot early in the team’s offseason program, had surgery to repair it and was placed on PUP to start training camp. His recovery went slower than expected, he was kept on PUP for the regular season, which carries a strict set of guidelines outlined above.
Hayden has been doing solid side work in recent days, making the cuts, breaks and sprints required of his position. If he’s able to play to his potential, the Raiders could certainly use him. They’ve struggled to find a consistent No. 3 cornerback, and he would be an upgrade at that spot given his physical tools.