Colts Veteran Cornerback Kelvin Hayden Says His Goal is Availability This Season
INDIANAPOLIS – His objective is clear, if not necessarily simple.
Kelvin Hayden, entering his sixth season with the Colts, is well-established as a veteran leader and core player with the Colts – a cornerback with coverage skills, quickness to the ball and the ability to play at a big-time level in run supas well.
He is a player of ability.
He has developed as a key to the Colts' defense.
But as he sees it, there's a bigger theme to his story, and that's that entering his sixth NFL season – his fourth as a starter – he hasn't yet reached his potential.
Thus, this season's objective:
Be on the field as much as possible, and get as close to his potential as possible, too.
"None of my goals are new," Hayden said recently during the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, which concluded in June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"My thing is the last two years I've missed numerous games. My thing is, 'Play the whole 16 and see what happens.'"
Hayden hasn't done that the last two seasons. But when he has played, teammates and coaches say he has played at a high enough level to make his presence critical to the Colts' overall defense.
Hayden, who played a major special teams role in his first two seasons, played nine games last regular season, finishing with 59 tackles, an interception and five passes defensed. After missing six games in 2008, he missed seven games this past season with multiple injuries, but started throughout the post-season and provided a veteran presence during a time when rookie Jerraud Powers missed time and was replaced by rookie free agent Jacob Lacey on the other corner.
Hayden said recently he feels healthy and optimistic entering the season, and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell spoke highly of Hayden during the team's recent organized team activities.
"He looks really good right now from a physical standpoint," Caldwell said during OTAs. "He's moving well. He's got his zip and bounce back. He's excited about his prospects for this year."
Gary Brackett, the Colts' middle linebacker and long-time defensive captain, recently discussed the importance to the Colts' defense of having Hayden available on a consistent basis.
"He's a difference-maker," Brackett said. "Obviously, as a former receiver, he's not going to drop a lot of passes thrown his way. Having a guy of his caliber out there definitely changes the game anytime we can get him on the field."
Entering the 2010 season, Hayden along with second-year veterans Powers and Lacey form the veteran core of the team's cornerback position, a position that because of off-season personnel moves and an injury is comparatively young.
After not re-signing veterans Marlin Jackson, T.J. Rushing or Tim Jennings in the off-season, the Colts in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft selected cornerback Kevin Thomas from the University of Southern California. He sustained what the team announced could be a season-ending knee injury during the 2010 rookie camp in early May, and Caldwell said 2010 seventh-round draft selection Ray Fisher, 2010 rookie free-agent signees Brandon King and Jordan Hemby and first-year veteran Terrail Lambert could make an impact.
"Those guys, they're attentive and that's the start," Hayden said. "You see these guys paying attention, taking notes well. It just gives you the observation that these guys want to be here and want to make an impact. It's just like when Jerraud and Lacey came in, those guys were attentive, too. You can see everybody trying to help each other. It's not a competition thing where guys feel like they don't need to help each other, but we have good core guys, that have great personalities and just want to be good as a team.
"That's one thing we all preach on, that every guy in the room that will be here, will be needed at some point in the season. Guys just want to prepare themselves."
Hayden said whatever the experience level of the players around him, the experience with which he is most concerned is that which he gained in then first-year defensive coordinator Larry Coyer's system last season. Hayden said playing in the scheme last year should help the entire defense this season, and he said that's true personally as well.
"It's the second year in a defense that was new, so every guy – even aside from myself – is going to be a little more comfortable doing what they're doing," Hayden said. "That's my main thing, just continue to get more comfortable, and to go out there and be on the details, and be the player I know I can be."
Hayden said that's his approach – to focus on what he knows he can do, to keep things relatively simple and to work as hard as he can. It is, he said, a clear objective, and although it's not necessarily a simple one, he said it's one that he believes can allow him to reach his potential.
"It's good to have goals going into the season, but my main mind-frame right now is to play the whole 16 and see what happens," Hayden said. "Then, when I'm out there in the whole 16, just be consistent in whatever it is – whether it's consistent in tackling or consistent in covering.
"Whatever it is, I just want to be a more consistent player. When you're consistent, good things happen, so my main thing this is to be consistent."