NAPA –- Plenty of ‘ifs’ surround cornerback DJ Hayden’s health and his ability to work out when Raiders training camp practices start on Friday.
NFL sources told CSN Bay Area that Hayden has a foot injury, an ailment suffered in late May that kept him in a walking boot. During a mid-June minicamp, head coach Dennis Allen said Hayden sprained his ankle. While a foot/ankle injury could mean varying lengths of recovery time -– Hayden’s been down seven or eight weeks -- reports have said Hayden is not fully healthy and that the Raiders will ease him into full-time action this preseason.
That suggests more time missed and another rough start to training camp for last year’s No. 12 overall draft pick.
Charles Woodson says that Hayden's absence would be a bad sign.
“It’s a big setback,” Woodson said Wednesday, after checking in to the Napa Valley Marriott. “As I’ve said many times, the most important thing in this game is being out on the field. There’s only so much being in the film room and studying plays can do for you. It can only take you so far. You need to be out there.”
The Raiders are counting on Hayden to start at cornerback, to play a significant role in the secondary at the very least. Conceding reps in the early going allows others to creep into the mix, a dangerous game for someone who longs to prove worthy of a starting spot.
“Other guys are going to be getting reps,” Woodson said. “If you can't prove what you can do, how can you ever get back into the lineup?”
Woodson isn’t privy to Hayden’s recovery timetable, but he hopes it doesn’t last much longer.
“Hopefully it’s not anything that’s going to hold him out the whole camp,” Woodson said. “Hopefully he doesn’t have to worry about being on a (physically unable to perform list) or anything like that. He’s a guy we feel can help us out around here. It has the potential to be a setback. Hopefully it’s not.”