Hayden: “I definitely got a lot more accomplished than I did last year because I’ve been lifting and working out, working with trainers, working out with [Strength and Conditioning Coach John Grieco] in the offseason program. I feel a whole lot better.”
Q: Coach said you were light years ahead of where you were; how many light years?
Hayden: “How many light years? I don’t know. Quite a few.”
Q: DA said something to the effect of, ‘Now he knows he’s okay.’ Was that an issue for awhile last year because you had the setback with the surgery for the scar tissue? Was it in the back of your mind that, ‘I’m still not completely healthy,’ as you went through your rookie year?
Hayden: “At first going through OTAs it might have been, but now, I’m great. I’m feeling a whole lot better. I’ve been lifting, working out, and I actually got a full offseason in so I’m ready; I’m ready for the season to start.”
Hayden: “I learned you have to just let stuff go. I mean, you can’t go back in the past. If something happens, you just have to focus on the next play.”
Q: Are you bigger than you were last year?
Hayden: “A little bit.”
Q: Five pounds? Ten pounds?
Hayden: “Something like that.”
Q: Was that your idea, their idea, coaches and strength?
Hayden: “I was just getting bigger, just eating good and lifting.”
Q: Do you think that will be beneficial?
Hayden: “It will definitely be beneficial, me being a little heavier and a lot stronger, because we have big receivers in this league and I think it will be good for you to be somewhat big.”
Q: So much a part of your game, and one of the reasons they picked you though, was your ability to cover and your ability to break on the ball. All of that stuff hasn’t been compromised in any way; you made sure of that?
Hayden: “Yeah, I made sure of it.”
Q: Did you feel like strength-wise you got pushed around at all last year and needed to protect against that this year?
Hayden: “Yeah, I definitely want to be stronger so I can take on blocks, big receivers and be able to tackle big running backs, so that was one of my goals.”
Q: Was the San Diego game last year the closest Raiders fans have seen to what
Hayden: “Was that the closest that they’ve seen? Yeah, what they’ve seen.”
Q: So there’s still a lot better out there then?
Hayden: “There is.”
Q: Was last year tough for you at all confidence-wise?
Hayden: “Somewhat because really the only thing I would say on the surgery thing in the OTAs because seeing all my teammates out there working and I’m hooked up to IVs, it might mess up anybody’s head a little bit, but I’m way over that now. I’m just ready for this next season to start.”
Q: You had
Hayden: “Just basically some of the knowledge they gave me is just stay focused, you know what to do, just apply your rules to the game and then just let your natural football instincts just take over.”
Q: How about the mental side? Where are you now as opposed to last year?
Hayden: “Light years ahead.”
Q: How many?
Hayden: “A few [laughing].”
Q: Is that almost more important sometimes to be better mentally than physically because that kind of follows suit?
Hayden: “It really is because if you know what to do, your natural reactions you’re just going to do it. You’re already athletic enough to do it; you just have to do it, so definitely.”
Q: Do you have any goals set out? Do you have a pick number or number of starts?
Hayden: “No, I haven’t sat down in my thinking chair and thought about the exact goals. I might have a couple in the back of my head.”
Q: A lot of new faces in the locker room, a lot of new moving parts, but is there somebody in particular you wanted to meet when you showed up here? Was there somebody in particular you wanted to have a conversation with?
Hayden: “Probably [Justin] Tuck. When I heard we got
Hayden: “Because he was a high caliber player playing in the NFL. I remember watching him when I was younger, like in high school and in college and junior college. He was dominating in the Super Bowl that they won. He’s probably one of the players I wanted to meet.”
Hayden: “Yeah, definitely, because they’ve been a part of winning teams and they know what it takes to get there. Just whatever they have might rub off on us and whatever we have might rub off on them and we can just get this thing going this year.”
Q: When you’re coming in as a first-round pick there are a lot of expectations on you; do you feel you have something to prove this year?
Hayden: “I feel like not only me, not only do I have something to prove, but I feel like we all have something to prove. Because with our season last year, we have to do way better now. We’re way better than that and I just can’t wait to get this season going.”
Q: Coming into these OTAs, it’s a completely different experience for you in that you weren’t even going to get on the field – I mean you did get on the field for a couple OTAs, but then you were out of commission – so I can’t even imagine what this must feel like for you…
Hayden: “It feels great. I made it through the first OTA. I definitely made it through one OTA, so I’m pretty excited that I made it through one.”
Q: Is it gratifying that as you went through last year that DA [Head Coach Dennis Allen] and [Defensive Coordinator Jason] Tarver both had your back through the whole thing that they’re like, ‘look, you’re going to be fine,’ at least publically that’s what they were saying…the fact that they had your back through that whole thing?
Hayden: “Yeah they definitely had my back and gave me encouraging words. Like I said earlier, just if anyone went through that experience they would kind of have a little down on [himself], but as the season kept going, I started to get more confident about it. I really just had to play my cards right. I couldn’t control the cards that were dealt to me, I just had to play them right.”
Q: When the groin injury happened and then you were eventually put on IR, was that kind of the bottoming out of, ‘I’m not going to play again this year?’
Hayden: “It definitely sucked, but that was the cards I was dealt, so I just had to play them right.”
Q: Do you have any specific goals set for yourself this year?
Hayden: “I’m still working on them.”
Q: Did Tarver give you a pep talk last year? What was his role with your development?
Hayden: “He would always give me little tips of what to do like, ‘if you have to take the middle of the field, make sure you’re outside,’ or just small stuff like, ‘let’s have a great day today,’ ‘let’s get it,’ ‘let’s ball.’ JT is funny. I like JT.”
Q: Everyone talks about the veterans that have had winning experiences rubbing off in the locker room. Anything you can say you’ve learned on how to win? I know it’s super early that you’ve been around this guys, but anything you’ve seen from them that you can actually apply early on?
Hayden: “First and foremost, just do your job and do it with confidence and believe in your ability. I think that’s a big part of it.”