For the past two years, Adam Hayward's season has been cut short due to leg injuries. After a full offseason recovery, the veteran is eager to get back to football.
Redskins linebacker Adam Hayward said Tuesday he's been officially cleared to go for the start of training camp next week after missing on-field practices this offseason recovering from a torn ACL last August.
Check out behind the scenes images of linebacker Adam Hayward's 2015 Photo Shoot.
When he missed the end of 2014 due to a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg, Hayward said he rushed back into training camp and didn't allow his leg enough time to get stronger. By the third preseason game against the Lions, the lack of preparation caught up with him and sent Hayward to the Injured Reserve list for the entire season.
"I'm doing stuff now with no knee brace and it feels good, but there's no reason to go now for two days when we've got camp in a month and a half," Hayward said during minicamp. "I've been waiting for [pads]."
Indeed, the last two years have been tough for Hayward, who has been unable to contribute on special teams as both a physical enforcer and a vocal leader for the locker room. His injury last season came just two weeks after tight end Niles Paul was shelved with a dislocated ankle, rendering the Redskins' two special teams' leaders immobile.
This year both are fully healthy, and Hayward is eager to get back to the field if only to restore some of the fun in playing football.
"The biggest thing is just being healthy and coming out on 'teams' and just leading again," Hayward said. "My first year I came here, I don't remember what we had on paper, but double digit tackles going into Week 11, I pride myself on that, so that's something I want to come back and do and lead on special teams, be a good leader, be a fun guy to be around and that people follow, get the defense going and just… you've got to have a few people, basically, that keep talking and keep it fun, because you work hard when it's fun. When it's not, it's like we're just dragging through it, so you've got to liven it up. Kind of what I take pride in."
Both of them also want to be the mentors they couldn't be last season, though Hayward notes that will take place more during the end of the preseason, once the team shakes out and the final roster forms.
"With Niles and myself back, him and I talk about that all the time like, we want to say things in meetings but it's kind of like 'not yet' because one, we've got 90-some guys that are trying to learn and do this," Hayward said. "When it gets closer to the time where we really got to tighten up, that's where people like myself and Niles come in there and challenge people."
Observing all of last season let him watch Mason Foster and Will Compton grow both at the inside linebacker position and with each other. Hayward spent time with Foster when the two played in Tampa together, and he and Compton have been extremely close for the last couple of seasons.
Hayward accepts he'll be playing behind Compton, learning the mike linebacker position, something he calls "a different world" in terms of making pre-snap checks. But Hayward remains comfortable relying on his instincts to guide him.
"It's awesome because Mason's a great football player. I've been with him so I've watched him be the leader and middle linebacker," Hayward said. "And now he gets to kind of step back and let Comp do it and now he can play and be a good football player like he was at [the University of Washington]. He's doing great. It's going to be interesting because Perry's [Riley] coming back soon, too, so we've got a lot of good linebackers in the middle."
Hayward understands his role on the defense is diminished – he seems excited when he talks about rookie Su'a Cravens stepping in – noting that the game has changed for his position as it relates to coverage skills.
"We got Su'a for a reason, so he can cover, because a lot of teams are doing it now where they put tight ends like Jordan Reed out there on a linebacker," Hayward said. "So you've got to get somebody who can cover him. That's kind of the thing you see with Su'a.
"He's young right now, but I try to help him out a lot," he added. "I've seen a lot after 10 years."