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DJ Hayden returns this week for Raiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Week six is past which means D.J. Hayden is eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list and return to practice for the Raiders. Reports from practice have Hayden as moving around well and looking ready to return. Tony Sparano said on Monday of Hayden's return to practice "that's the plan."

Sparano has been sure to point out that, despite Hayden's returning to practice with his teammates, the Raiders don't have to activate him immediately. They have three weeks to make that decision, so if for whatever reason they don't feel like Hayden is ready for game action, they can keep him on PUP until they feel the time is right.

Even if Hayden is fully healthy, it doesn't mean he will be ready to step back into game action immediately. He has been out five months, since he went down with a fractured foot in the team's OTA's in May. That means he had basically no off-season workouts, and no training camp, let alone preseason to get ready. And being on PUP, he is not allowed to practice full; only work out on the side with trainers.

Starting at cornerback this season in Hayden's absence has been Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Early on it was Chimdi Chekwa who was playing nickel corner but as of last week against the chargers it was T.J. Carrie taking over the job and performing quite well in it. After that, they have Neiko Thorpe who plays primarily special teams but showed well in preseason.

What all this means is the team isn't desperate for Hayden's services right at the moment so there's no need to rush him back and risk another injury or suffer from an accelerated learning curve.

That being said, having their former first round pick back practicing with the prospect of returning to the lineup soon can only strengthen this unit. On this beleaguered defense, they need all the fresh (young) bodies as they can get.

Not to mention they'd like to finally see their first top pick healthy and on the field. Hayden last played in a game November 3, 2013 -- nearly a year ago.

The Raiders hit the practice field at 2:50pm today.