NAPA – Cornerback D.J. Hayden is a tad concerned about how he’s going to look when he makes his Raiders debut against the Chicago Bears.
That’s understandable, given Hayden hasn’t played in a game since he suffered a torn artery and almost died last November.
Yet, that’s not what Hayden is worried about. It’s the extra “flap” Raiders trainers and doctors are making him wear that has him a bit self-conscious in advance of Friday’s game at the Coliseum.
“It just makes me look fat a little bit … ,” Hayden said Sunday after completing his first practice in which he was permitted contact in more than nine months. “I want to look good out there. I can’t be looking chubby. It makes me look like I got like a little beer belly or something.”
Hayden can laugh about such things now. There was nothing but long faces when Hayden tore the inferior vena cava during a collision with a teammate at practice last November.
He underwent surgery to repair the kind of damage from an injury that proves fatal in 95 percent of the time, according to Walter Lowe, the University of Houston team physician.
The artery carries blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart.
In late May, Hayden underwent a second surgery, this time to remove scar tissue in his abdominal region.
Naturally, the Raiders were fearful of rushing Hayden into action too soon, even though Hayden declared himself ready to go weeks ago.
Hayden spent the first three weeks or so of training camp wearing a red, non-contact jersey as a precautionary measure. Team trainers and doctors finally cleared Hayden for contact Friday..
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Hayden has some catching up to do, especially since Hayden missed some practice time with a hamstring injury and the team’s first two exhibition games.
To that end, Allen said he intends to take a look at Hayden, the Raiders first-round pick in the draft, against the Chicago Bears first-team offense, at least part of the time.
“It’s going to be good to get him in some game action this week, “ Allen said. “Physically, he looks just fine.”
Hayden said he’s fine with being thrown into the fire. He’s more concerned about not taking the experience for granted.
“I want the game to hurry up and come,” Hayden said, “but I want to enjoy that moment, playing in the game.”
Hayden’s mother intends to be at the game. Her son has some advice to deal with the nerves of seeing him play.
“You’ll be alright,” Hayden said he plans on telling her beforehand.
Fifteen years ago, defensive back Charles Woodson made his Raiders debut after being selected in the first round. Now, he’s the one eager to see what the new guy is capable of doing.
“I’m probably just like the coaches and the GM, you want to see him in a real game situation,” Woodson said. “I’m waiting for that.”
– Sunday marked the final practice of the season open to the media. From here on, media are permitted no more than 30 minutes’ access.
– Matt McGloin and Tyler Wilson didn’t receive any reps during practice. Presumptive starter Matt Flynn and backup Terrelle Pryor split the reps all day.
Allen said that’s by design because “we’re getting into regular-season mode.”
Also, the Raiders are preparing for their third exhibition game, when the starters tend to get their most extensive action.
– Flynn can’t blame the offensive line for his struggles at practice Sunday, as he could have for his uneven performance against the Saints.
During one three-play stretch, Flynn was intercepted by cornerback Mike Jenkins and linebacker Kaelin Burnett and then fumbled the snap. A short time later, Jenkins intercepted Flynn again.
On the bright side, Flynn ended practice with a well-thrown pass to wide receiver Rod Streater for a touchdown.
– Seventeen players missed all of practice today. Three others were limited, including running back Darren McFadden (shoulder). Allen said he doesn’t view McFadden’s injury as being serious.
– Tony Bergstrom and Lucas Nix played guard with the first-team offense Sunday. Incumbent starter Mike Brisiel remains unable to practice. Andre Gurode started at right guard against the Saints, but he worked with the second-team Sunday.
It’s all part of Allen’s plan to mix and match players for as long as he can in camp and exhibition games before he settles upon a starting five. Alex Barron was at left offensive tackle, just as he was against the Saints.