Raiders' Hayden happy to be alive, playing football

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Now that most of the national publicity has subsided, D.J. Hayden was back doing what he loves best -- wearing a helmet, playing cornerback, and knocking down passes in the defensive secondary.
The Raiders rookie cornerback's unusual health story gained a new and vigorous life -- reflecting what he did himself -- when the Raiders drafted him on April 25, less than five months after a freak practice collision ruptured a vein leading to his heart.
Surgeons repaired the vein -- an injury that has a 95 percent fatality rate -- and had to cut through his sternum to do it. Hayden lost 25 pounds. It took him more than three weeks to start walking. But when Hayden came back, he came back fast. By his Pro Day, Hayden was able to run a 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash and re-establish himself as a potential first-round draft pick.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the Raiders would have taken Hayden with the third overall pick had not a trade been available to move down to No. 12 and get Miami's second-round choice.
With that as a backdrop, the football field represented normalcy to Hayden at the Raiders rookie minicamp over the weekend.
"It felt so great just to be out there, to put the helmet back on and actually be back on the field," Hayden said.
Hayden practiced despite a slight hamstring strain incurred while training for his Pro Day 40-yard dash, but said he has been "completely" cleared by doctors following a procedure which repaired his inferior vena cava and required surgeons to cut through his sternum.
On one play, Hayden missed a jam at the line of scrimmage but made a quick recovery and broke up a pass with a wide swipe of his right hand.
"I think he's looked pretty good," Allen said. "He made a nice play on the ball today. I'm pleased with where D.J.'s at. It's going to be a learning process. It's putting one foot in front of the other. I think when it comes time to play games this September he'll be ready to roll."
As for playing for the first time following the surgery, Hayden said he didn't really think about it in terms of it being dangerous.
"The only time I think about it is when somebody asks me," Hayden said. "But when I'm on the field I don't think about it. I think about the play, and I think about the coverage. I've put it past me."
--Amy Trask, the Raiders CEO since 1997, informed owner Mark Davis of her resignation Saturday, saying she, "honored a commitment that I made to effectuate a smooth transition and transfer of control," adding "I no longer wish to remain with the organization. For over a quarter of a century, it was my honor and my privilege to work for the Raiders. I will forever appreciate the opportunity afforded me by Al Davis."
The Raiders responded with a statement on the team web site:
"Mark Davis, Carol Davis and the rest of the Raider family would like to thank Amy Trask for her valued contributions to the Raiders over the past 25 years. The Raiders wish her the very best in her future endeavors."
Trask, a fierce advocate for late owner Al Davis, was referred to in NFL circles as "The Princess of Darkness," which, in part, acknowledged that she was an extension of Davis.

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