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D.J. Hayden is expected to play in his first game against the Chicago Bears. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Hayden has practiced in a red non-contact jersey while waiting for medical clearance following surgery in May. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
D.J. Hayden has officially been cleared for contact. The cornerback taken No. 12 overall will wear a standard practice jersey for the first time during Sunday’s training-camp practice.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen made the announcement Saturday evening on a conference call.
[RELATED: Hayden will make Raiders debut vs. Chicago]
Hayden has practiced in a red non-contact jersey while waiting for medical clearance following May surgery that removed abdominal scar tissue. Allen inferred Friday that there was a 12-week threshold before he could be cleared for contact, and that has roughly passed.
The Raiders brought Hayden to New Orleans and let him go through pregame warm-ups. On Friday against the Chicago Bears, he’s expected to finally play.
This is a crucial time in Hayden’s development and his evaluation. He hasn’t been able to practice fully, but he has been involved in most drills. While they've been impressed with his play thus far, allowing Hayden to hit and eventually tackle will give the Raiders a clearer picture of their prized pick.
“Missing a little bit of time earlier in camp was a bit of a setback, but he’s taken a lot of reps in practice,” Allen said. “I think he’s anxious and excited about getting an opportunity about getting an opportunity to play in a game.”
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Hayden has been itching to get back to normal. He hasn’t hit anyone since November, when he suffered a vascular rupture in a college practice that could’ve killed him. His previous non-contact status had nothing to do with that accident, and everything to do with his May surgery.
This week, Hayden will get back to playing real football.
“Nobody knows how he’s going to respond when that happens,” Allen said. “We’ve had to hold him back at practice, because he wants to do everything. From that standpoint, I think he has a great mindset going into this thing. I think it’ll be great for him to get that first team appearance under his belt."