When Raiders second year cornerback D.J. Hayden went out injured during the first week of OTA's, it wasn't thought to be anything serious. Dennis Allen even said it was just a rolled ankle. As it turned out, the injury was diagnosed as a stress fracture and three months later, he is not ready to return.
The former number 12 overall pick in the 2013 draft has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list all of training camp and preseason and the time is approaching that the Raiders must make a decision whether to keep him there for the regular season.
"I think the deadline is next Tuesday, to make that determination," Dennis Allen said of whether to place Hayden on PUP. "So, we're going to see how the rehab process goes over the next few days and get a better feel for exactly when we think he's going to be available. That decision, it hasn't been made yet."
Hayden was working out along the side of the practice field on Monday which seemed to be an encouraging sign as to him possibly returning soon. As of Tuesday, he was no longer working on the side, again prompting the question as to whether he will be coming back anytime soon.
"I think you've got to look at are you rushing the guy back, or is he going to be ready," Allen continued. "He's not ready right now. Could he be ready in the next few days? That's a potential. If he's not then obviously the reserve/PUP is an option for us."
The Raiders have one more day of practice before they head to Green Bay for their third preseason game. After that the team has to get on their decision of who to cut and who to keep with the first roster cutdown to 75 players occurring just days away.
There will be two practices between the game and the cutdown date but it's unusual to have players practicing for the team who are to be cut, so the decision could be made as soon as Saturday.
If and when Hayden returns, the starting roster should remain the same. As Charles Woodson pointed out in training camp, Hayden is way behind. Mental reps are great, but nothing replaces actual practice time. And for Hayden, he has seen just two practices since he went down midway through the 2013 season with a groin injury.
"I feel for DJ in that the only way to get better at playing football is to play football and he just needs practice reps," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver." So hopefully his body allows him to do that and we'll practice him as much as he can and see how far he can go."
"He's going to have to earn his way back . . . it's hard because you can't do it on the field. You can do as much as you want, film study in the classroom, but those real reps, those real game reps, there's nothing like that. So he'll be worked in as fast as his health pace allows him to. But it'll be a work in progress."
If Hayden is placed on the PUP list, he won't count against the roster. He would also be officially out at least the first six games of the 2014 season. It's indeed a tough decision to make.
Since he has been out, former 49ers starters Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers have started. That would most certainly continue. Chimdi Chekwa (when he returns from injury) would likely resume nickel corner duties.