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ALAMEDA – The Raiders have a tough decision ahead regarding young cornerback DJ Hayden.
The second-year pro’s recovery from foot surgery has been slow, and it could significantly delay the start of his season.
The Raiders must decide whether to move him from the active Physically Unable to Perform list to the reserve PUP, which comes with restrictions.
A player on reserve PUP doesn’t count against the active roster, but he must sit out a minimum of six weeks. That has become a realistic albeit unwelcome option, but the Raiders haven’t made a decision on what to do with their 2013 first-round pick.
The Raiders have until August 30 to make that determination, though head coach Dennis Allen mentioned Aug. 26 – when rosters drop from 90 players to 75 – as a time to make that designations.
“We’re going to see how the rehab process goes over the next few days,” Allen said. “We’ll get a better feel for exactly when he’s going to be able to come back. That decision hasn’t been made yet.”
Several variables will factor into this decision. The overall health of the cornerback spot – Chimdi Chekwa remains out with a knee injury, possibly until the regular season opener – must be taken into account. So will roster spots at other positions, which will help decide whether they can carry dead weight on the 53-man roster and for how long.
The most important is Hayden’s health and ability to get back on the practice field. The Raiders certainly don’t want to risk further injury by forcing him back into the lineup.
“That’s what you have to look at,” Allen said. “Are you rushing a guy back, or is he going to be ready? He’s not ready right now. Could he be ready in the next few days? There’s potential. If not, then reserve PUP is an option for us.”
Moving to the PUP list might help Hayden ease back into work. He missed most of the offseason program and the entire preseason after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, so he’s going to need work to properly prepare for a regular-season environment.
Hayden hasn’t played since Nov. 3, 2013 against Philadelphia, after which he was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.
While he was expected to start at cornerback, that’s no longer guaranteed. He had to claim that spot with a solid training camp, which was taken from him by injury.
“He’s going to have to earn his way back, but he’s going to need the time,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “All young players need reps more than anything. You can do as much film study as possible, but those real game and practice reps, there’s nothing like that.”
Hayden certainly isn’t ready for that kind of activity. He did some running and cutting on the side during Monday’s practice in his most strenuous session in a practice open to the press, but he has hurdles to clear before re-joining the fray.
“He’ll be worked in as fast as his health allows him to,” Tarver said. “It’ll be a work in progress. I don’t know where he’ll start in the depth chart but, when he’s ready, we’ll rep him in and let him compete.”