Shutdown Corner

D.J. Hayden played and played pretty well in Oakland Raiders debut

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

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(USA Today Sports Images)

They say preseason games are bad entertainment and not worth the exorbitant regular-season ticket prices the teams charge for games that don't count, and there’s a ton of evidence backing that up.

But sometimes these games actually mean something to the men playing in them.

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Case in point: Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden. He probably should be dead. The injury he suffered last fall easily could have killed him. What appeared to be a routine hit on the practice field at the University of Houston turned out to be a freak critical injury, suffering a torn vein close to his heart.

The fact that Hayden lived is a miracle. The fact he went in the first round of April’s draft was astounding. And the fact that he was on the field Friday night in a so-called meaningless preseason game against the Bears is reason is celebrate.

The No. 12 overall pick in the draft made his preseason debut, starting at right corner, and played pretty well. On his first snap, he lined up opposite Brandon Marshall. How's that for an early test?

It was clear the Bears were testing Hayden on their first drive, and he whiffed on a tackle on Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 3rd-and-1 play that ended up a 22-yard gain. But Hayden made up for it later in the series, breaking up a pass thrown to Marshall that was tipped and almost intercepted.

[Related: Terrelle Pryor to start at QB in Oakland?]

Hayden struggled to disengage on blocks a few times, was giving his receivers pretty big cushions and looked a bit small out there compared to the Bears' big receivers, tight ends and backs. But he also looked fearless, playing on defense and special teams in the first half, with the first real football contact he has incurred since the near-fatal accident last fall.

That in and of itself is a major victory in what was an otherwise horrible showing by the Raiders' first-teamers, falling down 24-0 in the first 20 minutes of the game before Terrell Pryor made a few circus plays in the second half. Raiders fans can be proud of their brave first-round pick for his effort on Friday, even if most of the rest of the team looked pretty miserable.

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