With the chronic soreness in the hamstring of Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, he was nearly non-existent at mini camp and OTA’s.
When he was drafted, he was seen as an extremely durable player who never misses games but that is about to change.
Hamstring problems can be nasty and lingering. They can keep a player out an entire season and often end a player’s career. Heyward-Bey is just that kind of player. Without his speed, he is an average receiver. Perhaps even pedestrian. Even if he was slowed by his hamstring, it would mean big trouble.
I am not ready to jump to any conclusions about how bad this injury is. And if I were to speculate, I would have to believe that it is indeed a minor strain. But that said, it has already kept him out of mini camps and OTA’s and is likely to keep him out of a good portion of training camp. He was already visibly behind the learning curve. On top of that, he was not ready for how physically demanding the workouts were.
His acclimation into this offense will be a slow climb both mentally and physically. There are several other players on this team that are former starters like Jonnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, and Javon Walker that will be ahead of DHB on the depth chart. Darrius could very likely be behind the guy who was drafted three rounds after him; Louis Murphy.
Having these players on the roster will allow the Raiders to take their time with DHB and protect their investment, which will likely be a large one.
This is unfortunate because top ten drafted receivers almost ALWAYS become immediate starters for their respective teams. These players are drafted that high because they are seen as instant contributors.
That, of course, brings to mind Michael Crabtree. One might argue that Crabtree also has not set foot on the field for the Niners. But Crabtree has a couple things going for him in this comparison.
First of all, Crabtree’s injury is a simple stress fracture. That injury will heal completely and there is no doubt of that. With a hamstring injury, there are always doubts.
Second of all, Crabtree’s skill set is entirely different. His production is not as dependent on speed the way DHB’s is.
Third, who would the Niners field besides Crabtree? They have a stable of mediocrity. While the Raiders have a former two time pro bowler and 1000 yard receiver in Walker, and two budding stars in Higgins and Schilens. And also the aforementioned Louis Murphy who is doing nothing but impressing his coaches in practice with his skills and vigor.
This would mean that Heyward-Bey could be buried as the fifth receiver on a team that will likely only carry six receivers total.
And worst case scenario, he reinjures that hamstring and get placed on IR. It would be like JaMarcus Russell all over again. Different reasons but same result.
Regardless of how this pesky hamstring problem plays itself out, I wouldn’t expect to see much out of Heyward-Bey any time soon. And while that certainly will only make the critics of his draft position squawk even louder, it will be the best thing for him and the Raiders who will be throwing a lot of money his way very soon.