ALAMEDA — As soon as D.J. Hayden woke up, he flashed back one year to the day he almost died in a practice collision.
Hayden got an encouraging text message from his mother Wednesday morning and he said he just felt blessed to be living after undergoing emergency heart surgery last Nov. 6.
After battling his way back from a near-death experience, Hayden's growing pains as a rookie cornerback in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders appear like minor impediments rather than shaking his confidence after a rough outing last week against Philadelphia.
"I'm just truly blessed," he said. "Truly blessed to be living right now. Truly blessed to be in the NFL right now. I'm just truly blessed."
Hayden collided with a teammate in practice at Houston one year ago, tearing a blood vessel off the back of his heart. He was rushed into immediate surgery for a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.