DJ Hayden back on practice field after long recovery: "Felt like old times"

USA TODAY Sports

Raiders rookie cornerback, DJ Hayden, took the practice field for the first time in six months and showed he has put his injury behind him.

Much has been made of the heart injury that Raiders rookie first round pick suffered that nearly cost him not only his football career, but his life. He worked hard to get himself back in shape and show the NFL that surviving the injury was the only real obstacle that stood in his way. He defied the odds and became the Raiders top selection in the 2013 draft. The next step was taking the practice field for his new team.

"I'm clear for everything," said Hayden. "I don't even think about it. The only time I think about is when somebody asks me. But when I'm on the field I don't think about that. I think about the play and I think about the coverage that I'm in. I put it past me."

Putting the injury that has received all the discussion behind him in once thing. He entered rookie camp with another injury. But there was no way he was going to let it stop him from his first chance to take a football field in organized practice in six months.

"He's nursing a hamstring a little bit," said head coach Dennis Allen. "He strained his hamstring running a 40 when he was going through the workout process, so he's still not quite 100 percent from there but he's been out there working through it."

Despite the milestone nature to this past weekend's camp, the grounded rookie went through things as he always had.

"It felt like old times," said Hayden. "I did my usual routine. I came here, took a knee, said a little prayer then just went out there. It wasn't like it took my extra time to get ready. I just went out there and did what I did."

What he did was look every bit the first round pick the Raiders expected of him. There was no sign of the hamstring injury that supposedly had him at less than 100%. Granted, he was not facing the caliber talent he will face once he practices with his veteran NFL teammates, but as the Raiders' top pick in the draft, what Hayden needed to do was look like the best player on the field, and he accomplished that.

After working his way back from being bed ridden to taking an NFL practice field, he needed to have a good rookie camp to get his confidence back. On Saturday, he had a couple of nice plays, one of which saw him in one motion, turn and make an outstretched play on the ball to knock it down.

"It helps put me at ease," said Hayden. "As long as I keep making production I feel like I can get better. Just make plays. When I made the little play I was happy. I should have caught it but there's always room for improvement."

Dennis Allen had a similar sentiment with regard to what he saw from Hayden thus far.

"I think he's looked pretty good," said Allen. "He made a nice play on the ball today. I'm pleased with where D.J.'s at. Again, it's going to be a learning process. It's putting one foot in front of the other. I think when it comes time to play games this September, I think he'll be ready to roll."

Considering where this rookie is now with relation to where he was just a few short months ago, I don't think there is any doubt he will be more than ready.

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