Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday the team will decide by next week whether cornerback DJ Hayden is healthy enough to start the season on the active roster or if he will go on the physically unable to perform list.
Hayden is recovering from surgery in June on a stress fracture in his right foot and has been unable to practice this summer. He has done limited running on the side and is making progress. But time is running out if he wants to play to start the season.
If Hayden is placed on the PUP list he will not count against Oakland’s 53-man roster to start the season. He will be required to miss at least the first six games of the season.
“We’ll have to see how the rebab process goes over the next few days and get a feel for exactly when we think he’ll be available,” Allen said. “That decision hasn’t been made yet.”
The Raiders are a bit thin at cornerback right now with Chimdi Chekwa out with a knee injury. But Allen said the decision on Hayden’s status will be primarily based on whether Hayden will be 100 percent to start the season.
Hayden has spent more time on the sideline than the field since being picked 12th overall by the Raiders in the 2013 draft despite a near-fatal practice injury while in college at Houston.
He missed almost the entire offseason as a rookie and the second half of his first season with injuries and now has been dealt another setback.
“I feel for DJ in that the only way to get better at playing football is to play football,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He just needs practice reps. Hopefully his body allows him to do that and we’ll practice him as much as we can and we’ll see how far he can go.”
Hayden came into the league with questions about his health and has only faced more as a pro. After participating in his first rookie minicamp, Hayden got hurt again during the first full-team practice of the offseason and had to undergo surgery to repair an abdominal scar related to an earlier heart surgery performed after his college injury.
Hayden didn’t get cleared for contact until midway through training camp and never truly caught up.
He played about two-thirds of Oakland’s defensive snaps as the nickel cornerback during the first eight games with his highlights being an interception against San Diego and a forced fumble in Kansas City.
But he struggled for most of the season, allowing 26 catches on 40 throws with him in coverage for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He had an interception and allowed a 110 passer rating against.
Hayden spent the offseason adding strength and was healthy at the start of workouts. But he rolled his right ankle in late May during the first week of organized team activities. An MRI at the time showed no complications but one taken later at the end of minicamp in June showed the stress fracture.
Hayden underwent surgery and was expected to be sidelined for up to two months. That time has now passed and Hayden is still only working out on the side.
“He was explosive in the spring and you could see it start to happen before his latest one happened,” Tarver said. “We expect him to get back to that. We’ll practice him as long as it takes. We’ll get as many reps as we can with the young man.”
The Raiders had been hoping Hayden would seize a starting cornerback spot across from free-agent acquisition Tarell Brown. Carlos Rogers, another free agent, was then penciled in as the slot cornerback in nickel formations but has moved into a starting role with Hayden out.
Tarver said Hayden will need to earn his way back into the starting lineup when he is healthy.
“He’s going to need the time,” Tarver said. “All young players need the time. You need reps to get good at anything. It’s like any profession. You don’t walk out and you’re a chemist or a computer programmer. You have to spend your time, you have to grind.”
NOTES: FB Marcel Reece was back at practice a day after having an MRI on his injured right foot. … WRs Juron Criner (hip) and Brice Butler (concussion) also were back. … OL Matt McCants and DL Justin Ellis remain sidelined by concussions.