ALAMEDA -- The mere act of getting out of bed Wednesday morning made it a good day for Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden.

He was three days removed from giving up two touchdown passes against the Philadelphia Eagles, a rookie trial by fire that in terms of adversity is dwarfed in terms of significance considering where Hayden was a year ago.

On Nov. 6, 2012, Hayden took a knee to the sternum during practice at the University of Houston and found himself fighting for his life with a torn inferior vena cava, the main blood vessel that leads to the heart.

It was the type of injury normally associated with auto accidents and has a fatality rate of more than 90 percent.

Oakland Raiders’ DJ Hayden defends against the Chicago Bears in the first quarter at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (Jim
Oakland Raiders' DJ Hayden defends against the Chicago Bears in the first quarter at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

"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."

After a delicate trauma surgery to piece the vein back together and an arduous recovery period, Hayden miraculously repositioned himself as a first-round draft pick, going No. 12 overall to the Raiders.

There was a second surgery in late May to remove scar tissue from his abdomen, which kept Hayden from participating in the offseason program. He spent much of training camp in a red jersey, prevented from contact until gaining medical clearance.


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Perhaps it was unrealistic to think Hayden could immediately be a force given the circumstances. He has been the Raiders' third cornerback, coming in when the situation calls for five defensive backs with Tracy Porter moving to the slot.

Aside from being the primary defender on touchdown passes of 17 and 63 yards to Riley Cooper, Hayden also was covering DeSean Jackson on a 59-yard gain that set up another Eagles touchdown.

Hayden declined to comment after the 49-20 loss, sitting for a time with a towel covering his head. Raiders coach Dennis Allen is convinced any difficulties Hayden is having on the field will be overcome with the kind of determination that marked his recovery.

"Nothing in football can compare to what he had to go through and the type of mental toughness it takes to battle through the injury he had," Allen said. "I have no doubt he will respond. ... Not a lot of people have gone through the things he had to go through."

At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Hayden has showed quick feet and good cover skills, but the Philadelphia game was a more dramatic example of a problem that has dogged him all season.

Hayden often is able to stay with receivers but falters at the point where it comes time to make a play on the ball -- and being close is no consolation.

"He is right there step for step ... he was in position on every play (against Philadelphia)," safety Charles Woodson said. "From here on in, he'll just have to make the play."

Allen said it's a trait Hayden displayed in college and that it will come with experience in the NFL.

Hayden, having been counseled by veteran players, promised to put the Eagles game behind him.

"It's about how you respond," he said. "I could have made plays, I've just got to finish the plays."

  • Quarterback Terrelle Pryor (sprained ankle) practiced with no limitations and is on schedule to start against the New York Giants on Sunday. Running back Darren McFadden (hamstring strain) did not practice, and his status is in doubt.

    "I'm a little banged up, but I practiced the whole day today. I was running hard, felt very good," Pryor said.

    Center-guard Andre Gurode (knee) has missed the past two games but was limited in practice. Allen wasn't ready to say if he will go back in the starting lineup at left guard in place of Lucas Nix.

    Others who did not participate were kicker Sebastian Janikowski (ribs), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (ribs), tackles Matt McCants (toe) and Tony Pashos (toe) and safety Tyvon Branch (ankle).

    The most notable absence for the Giants in practice was wide receiver Victor Cruz (neck).

    Sunday's game

    Raiders (3-5) at N.Y. Giants (2-6), 10 a.m., CBS