NAPA -- The Raiders are counting upon second-year cornerback DJ Hayden to make a bigger contribution than he did as a rookie, when abdominal and groin injuries limited his practice and game time.
For that to happen, Hayden needs to be healed enough from the ankle injury he suffered in an offseason workout to the point he can practice, veteran defensive back Charles Woodson said Wednesday.
"The way you get better at this game is being out there on the field," Woodson said. "There's only so much being in the film room, or looking at the film or studying the plays, there's only so far that's going to take you."
Coach Dennis Allen said late in the offseason that he expected Hayden to be back at full strength in time for the first training camp practice Friday. That remains to be seen.
Hayden wasn't spotted during the players' check-in period that the media was permitted to observe Wednesday. He also wasn't available for comment.
Woodson, entering his 17th NFL season, missed some time early in his career as a result of turf-foe injuries. He speaks from experience when he talks about the importance of practice.
If Hayden misses significant practice time during training camp, Woodson said, it's going to be a "big setback." Hayden was limited during training camp last season as he recovered from a May surgery to remove scar tissue in his abdominal region.
"You need to be out on the field," Woodson said, "and, along with that, other guys are going to be getting reps. If you're not out there, proving what you can do, how do you ever get back into the lineup?
"That will be the test for him and hopefully it's not nothing that's going to hold him out the whole camp and he doesn't have to worry about being on (the physically unable to perform list) or anything like that, because he's a guy we feel he can help us out around here. It has the potential to be a setback, but hopefully it's not."
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