Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden’s rookie season started with abdominal surgery related to a near-fatal heart injury suffered in his final college season and it ended with a groin injury, leaving him little time to actually concentrate on playing football after the Raiders drafted him in the first round.
Hayden has had no such limitations this offseason, leaving defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to say that the cornerback is on the upswing heading into his second season. Hayden agrees with that assessment and feels that the change in circumstance has come about mentally as well as physically.
“I’m great, I’m feeling a whole lot better,” Hayden said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “I’ve been lifting, working out, and I actually got a full offseason in so I’m ready. I’m ready for the season to start. [Last year], in the OTAs, because seeing all my teammates out there working out and I’m hooked up to IVs, it might mess up anybody’s head a little bit, but I’m way over that now.”
Given the scare Hayden got with his heart in 2012, it’s not surprising that he needed a little time to get into the right mental space before he could totally focus on football. Now that he has, the Raiders will be looking for a big jump in productivity as they try to build a defense that can help end their lengthy playoff drought.