By Steve Corkran
Saturday, May 11th, 2013 at 4:15 pm in Oakland Raiders.
ALAMEDA – When you’ve gone through what D.J. Hayden has to make it to this point, a sore hamstring isn’t about to slow you down.
So it was that the Raiders first-round draft pick D.J. Hayden practiced through his injury Saturday and looked none the worse as evidenced by a couple of pass breakups.
“Oh, man, it felt so great just to get back out there, put the helmet back on and just actually be on the field,” said Hayden, a speedy cornerback.
Hayden had a near brush with death last November when he suffered a ruptured vein that feeds blood from his lower body to his heart in a practice at the University of Houston.
Most people die from such an injury, according to medical experts. Some place the fatality rate as high as 95 percent.
Yet, on Saturday Hayden showed no lingering effects from the scary injury.
“I don’t even think about it,” Hayden said of the injury in which a teammate’s knee drilled him in the midsection while defending a pass over the middle. “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 about the coverage that I’m in. I put it past me.”
On one play, Hayden broke on a pass by quarterback Tyler Wilson, reached back and deflected the pass a split second before it arrived at the intended target.
In keeping with his nature, Hayden downplayed the positive and dwelled on what he failed to accomplish.
“When I made the little play, I was happy,” Hayden said. “I should have caught it but there’s always room for improvement.”
The Raiders selected Hayden with the 12 pick of the 2013 NFL draft in late April. General manager Reggie McKenzie said the Raiders were so high on Hayden that they would have used the No. 3 pick on him if they hadn’t have traded down to 12.
Coach Dennis Allen said he has been impressed by Hayden’s play the first two days of the team’s three-day rookie mini camp.
“I’m pleased with where D.J.’s at,” Allen said. “Again, it’s going to be a learning process. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. When it comes time to play games this September I think he’ll be ready to roll.”