By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 at 4:51 pm in Oakland Raiders.
A year ago, Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden collided with a teammate at the University of Houston and suffered an injury that required emergency surgery.
“A day that I’ll always remember — the day I got hit in practice and almost lost my life,” Hayden said. “I thought about it when my mom texted me this morning (about) how good God has been. This day is just another example of how he works in mysterious ways.”
And it’s another reason why Hayden is able to keep things in perspective and not get too down about a game such as the one he had against the Eagles last Sunday, when he allowed three receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Hayden said he is heartened by the fact that he was in position to break up all three passes that he allowed to be caught by Eagles receivers.
“It’s about how you respond to it,” Hayden said. “I could have made both plays, I’ve just got to finish the play. If I’d have finished the play, who knows what the outcome would have been.”
Hayden suffered a ruptured vein in practice a year ago. Quick thinking by a team trainer resulted in Hayden being treated properly and rushed to a hospital, where doctors were able to save Hayden from an injury that has a 95 percent fatality rate.
He has a scar that runs from atop his chest down to his belly button. During the late offseason, Hayden underwent a second surgery as a result of pain caused by scar tissue.
The initial injury and the two resulting surgeries compelled the Raiders to keep Hayden under wraps until late in training camp, when he finally got cleared for contact.
Coach Dennis Allen is convinced that Hayden will validate the Raiders using the No. 12 pick in this year’s NFL draft on the speedy cornerback and that Hayden will be even better next season, if for no other reason than he will have an offseason in which to prepare at full strength the entire time.
“Nothing in football can compare to what he had to go through and the type of mental toughness that it takes to battle through the injury that he battled through and to be able to come back like he’s been able to come back,” Allen said. “I have no doubt that he will be able to respond, he’ll be able to come back and he’ll perform at a high level.
“Not a lot of people have gone through the things that he had to go through. Being a rookie is one thing and that has its own unique challenges but being a rookie after suffering through the setback that he had is a challenging thing but he’s done a nice job.”
– There’s a sense that part of the drop in production in the second half of games by the Raiders offense in general and quarterback Terrelle Pryor in particular has to do with Pryor wearing down as a result of all the running he does.
Pryor has rushed 63 times in seven games and flushed from the pocket numerous other times in which he ultimately got sacked or attempted a pass.
Against the Eagles, Pryor rushed for 94 yards and spent most downs running around in an attempt to elude defenders, buy time and wait for receivers to get open.
Pryor scoffed at the notion that his play might suffer as a direct result of all the running around he does in games, particularly in the first half.
“I don’t ever wear down,” Pryor said. “It’s just whatever happens. If that’s what it takes to win … I run about a mile every day on the treadmill, so that adds up as the week goes on. So I could go pretty good so far – I’m young, so hopefully I’m blessed enough to play a while and we’ll be talking about that in the future. But right now, I can do that.”
– Mychal Rivera and Jeron Mastrud combined for 20 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown the first half of the season. On Sunday, the Raiders get their first look at Brandon Myers since they allowed him to leave via free agency.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Myers has been “solid” for the Giants this season. The stats seem to validate that assessment. Myers caught 23 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown in his new team’s first eight games.
As for the production of the Raiders tight ends this season, Allen made it clear that there’s room for improvement.
“It’s an area that we’d like to see a little bit more production from,” Allen said. “Those guys are going in there and battling and doing the things that they’re capable of doing.”
Rookie tight end Nick Kasa has yet to catch a pass this season. He got a handful of snaps against the Eagles last Sunday and even had a pass thrown his way.
Here’s Allen’s take on where Kasa stands halfway through his rookie season.
“He’s making some strides,” Allen said. “He’s not there yet. He’s still behind the other two guys. But he’s gotten better, It was good to get him in the game the other day and let him get some game time experience. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him some more experience.”
– Had a brief chat with strong safety Tyvon Branch in the locker room today. He said he isn’t sure when he’s going to be able to return to practice or play in a game again.
Branch hasn’t played since he suffered an ankle injury against the Washington Redskins. The Raiders have carried Branch on the roster all season in hopes of his returning at some point.
When that is, no one knows. Allen said last week that he was hopeful of Branch being a week or two away.
– As it turned out, kicker Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t able to participate in practice. He was spotted taking part in stretching before practice started. However, Allen said that his kicker was held out because of the ribs he injured against the Eagles.
– Menelik Watson watched the video of his play against the Eagles and came away satisfied at how well he performed despite a lack of practice and game action since training camp started.
Still, he added, he isn’t in to being just satisfied. He wants to be a key cog on the Raiders offensive line, someone able to impact the game.
“I want to be a part of the reason why we win,” Watson said. “I want to be a difference-maker, not just a body. So, therefore, I wasn’t happy with the overall result.”
Watson made his regular-season debut against the Eagles last Sunday, but he didn’t enter the game until a toe injury sidelined right offensive tackle Matt McCants.
As of now, it appears as if Watson is going to make his starting debut this Sunday against the Giants. Allen said Watson graded out pretty well against the Eagles.
“He’s an extremely talented athlete for as big as he is,” Allen said in response to why Watson is able to succeed despite little experience in the game, even before this season. “He’s a great athlete. He has good power. Fundamentally he has to continue to work to improve. That’s probably the biggest area he needs to work to improve on because he hasn’t got a lot of experience.”
– Allen said receiver Juron Criner’s shoulder injury is an A-C sprain. Criner had his right shoulder in a sling during practice today. There’s no word on Criner’s status for Sunday’s game.
– Couldn’t help but notice Pryor talking about the difficulty in getting fullback Marcel Reece the ball as much as desired and thinking back to how the Raiders managed to get Rashad Jennings 22 touches against the Eagles on Sunday.
By comparsion, Reece has 25 touches in eight games this season. Pryor said Reece gives the Raiders a favorable matchup whenever he’s covered by a linebacker or safety, but teams have a penchant for using a cornerback on Reece.
It says here, throw the ball to Reece and take your chances with him and his 255-pound body against a cornerback that might tip the scales at 200 pounds.
“I know coach wants to get him the ball,” Pryor said, “it’s just tough to find the matchups because a lot of (teams) are starting to play him like a receiver.”