Hayden hopes stretching keeps him on field

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
8:03
PM ET

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Talent isn't the issue with Chicago Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden. Durability is.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Hayden
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhKelvin Hayden has had trouble staying on the field in recent years.

Hayden missed a total of 20 games the past three years due to knee, neck and foot injuries, and because of those medical red flags, the Bears were able to sign the defensive back -- who, three years ago, inked a lucrative five year contract with the Indianapolis Colts -- to a veteran minimum one-year deal in the offseason.

Now completely healthy, Hayden plans to stay that way, and he has gone to great lengths to prepare his body for the unavoidable rigors of an NFL training camp.

"I did a lot of stretching from the end of minicamp to the start of training camp, as opposed to doing a lot with the weights," Hayden said Tuesday. "I did a lot of stretching and a lot of running and I really think that is going to help me out. The less tense the muscles get during this time the better. As you get older, the body gets older. You just want to go out there and stay flexible.'

"I started stretching at night. That's big. Stretching at night is crucial because you go to bed with your muscles relaxed as opposed to being tense. My main focus was to stay limber and stay flexible. You have to take care of yourself more as you get older."

As far as Hayden's on-field transition, it shouldn't be too difficult since he played in Cover-2 schemes while in Indianapolis and Atlanta, although there are certain subtle differences.

"Terminology is a little different," Hayden said. "On the outside looking in you just think it's a Cover-2. But when you get in the classroom you realize we do a lot of things, a lot of blitzes, man coverages and disguises. In Indianapolis, you just kind of lined up and played ball. There is a difference."

But with a decent working knowledge of the defense, Hayden must now find a way to unseat incumbent starting cornerback Tim Jennings, which is not expected to be easy. Jennings turned in arguably one of the best offseasons of any Bears' player on the roster, and has followed that up with a solid first week of camp.

However, Hayden is a playmaker who forces turnovers, a skill Bears head coach Lovie Smith values above all others in the secondary. Including 10 career postseason games, Hayden has 14 career interceptions to go along with four forced fumbles, compared to Jennings' seven picks and one forced fumble. When the two were teammates in Indianapolis, it was Hayden who got the starting nod over Jennings in the 2007 season.

"Anywhere you go you're going to have competition," Hayden said." It's just that with me and Tim we know each other. I look at Tim like a brother, you know we played four or five years together in Indianapolis. We've seen each other grow and we try and make each other day in and day out. It's the same way here. We compete for a living and that's what we're going to do here is compete.'

"This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. It's not what you did in the past it's what you are doing right now. It's all about right now. It's not about the past or what you are going to do in the future, it's about right now. So I'm worried about the things I can do right now to help this team win. Physically I feel good, mentally I feel good, I think it's just keeping a positive frame of mind. I'm not thinking about not going out there and getting hurt, I'm thinking about having fun. I feel like this offseason I prepared myself to play an entire 16 game schedule. The main thing now is just going out there and proving

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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