Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden saw his first practice without the red jersey today since being cleared by doctors to resume full contact since his surgery to remove scar tissue from his abdomen last May. He was cleared by doctors last Friday which was when Dennis Allen said he expected him to be cleared, and he was in pregame warm-ups in uniform with his teammates Friday night, but didn't play.
"They teased me a little bit. It's like putting some cookies in front of a kid and tell him ‘you can't eat ‘em, but look at ‘em'. But I'm alright."
Sunday came out on the field wearing the black jersey for his first practice since early May, prior the the surgery. He had been practicing all of camp, aside from a few days in which he had a hamstring issue, but he was not allowed to have full contact per doctors orders.
Today in practice the team was not in pads and therefore there was no contact anyway. So, he still has yet to take that first hit.
"It was like a normal day. I just had a black jersey on, that was it," said Hayden. I'm just glad to be practicing. As long as I'm out there, I'm good."
"I'm in football shape. I'm good, I'll be ready to play. . . I feel like I could've played [this preseason], but they had a plan, I had to stick to what H Rod [Martin] and [Dennis Allen] wanted, but now I'm good, so let's go."
Come this week the fans will get their first look at Hayden in a game. It will also be Hayden's first game action since he originally had the life-threatening heart injury and emergency surgery his senior season at Houston. Hayden says he's not nervous about the game but his mom is. She will be in attendance at the game as well.
Hayden himself just wants the game to get here.
"I'm looking forward to my first NFL game. Can't wait to get out there and play. I wanna go ahead and shake the rust off. Get wet a little bit. Can't wait. . . I wanna play. I want the game to hurry up and come but I wanna enjoy that moment, playing in the game."
Charles Woodson is eager to see his young protege take the field for his first NFL game.
"It's good to know that he's cleared and he'll get a chance to get out there and to play at this level, play in the NFL and get a chance to get his feet wet and get a taste of it this weekend," said Woodson. "I'm probably just like the coaches and the GM, you want to see him in a real game situation. I'm waiting for that."
Hayden will be wearing some extra protection on his chest for the game, just in case. The only issue for Hayden is how it makes him look when he's wearing it.
"I got a little front flap that I'm wearing [on my chest]," said Hayden I don't know how long I'm gonna wear it, but I have that on right now. It just makes me look fat a little bit. That's the only thing. . . I wanna look good out there. I can't be looking chubby. Make me look like I got like a little beer belly or something."
The next step for Hayden is a full-contact practice, which will happen Monday and continue through the week. He will be starting in the game as Tracy Porter will not play with a groin injury he suffered in the team's week two game against the Saints.
It will be a trial by fire for Hayden getting a start in his first live action game in nearly a year and face off against the likes of Brandon Marshall in the all-important third preseason game in which the starter will play about three quarters. Hayden said of guarding Marshall "I just gotta guard him and make sure he don't catch the ball."
That, like most of what Hayden has experienced since coming to Oakland as their top pick, is easier said than done. And for the first time in a very long time, the talking will be replaced by doing for Hayden.