BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The injury news was the worst for Kelvin Hayden, it was revealed on Wednesday that the veteran cornerback suffered a torn hamstring at Saturday night’s practice and is done for the year.
“He’s got a severe hamstring [injury]," said coach Marc Trestman. “He’ll be out 6-8 months to rehab, and surgery will be imminent.”
Hayden’s loss vaults untested Isaiah Frey into the No. 1 nickel back spot, a virtual starter in an NFL in which 58 percent of the 32,882 plays run last year were pass plays.
The situation spotlights the critical importance of third cornerbacks. Hayden and D.J. Moore played a total of 840 of the Bears’ 1,021 on defense last year between nickel packages and fill-in’s at standard corner.
Frey has had a standout training camp and filled in for Hayden over the past several practices. But he was on the Bears’ practice squad last season after coming in as a sixth-round draft choice and has never dressed for an NFL game.
“You hate to see that happen,” Frey said on Wednesday.
“I’m just doing what the coaches ask me to do. A good friend of mine and good teammate injured himself, I’m just really praying he gets healthy.”
Hayden, signed by the Bears last season and re-signed for this year, made a comeback from a serious neck injury that put his career in jeopardy in 2010. He has been a mentor as well as teammate for his young replacement throughout this camp.
“Man, I can’t even explain how much he helps,” Frey said. “Kelvin is a great guy. He helps me continuously. He’s going to stay and continue to help me. He’s a great guy and I pray for his health.”
The Bears have other options, including sliding starter Tim Jennings inside to nickel and using Frey or Zackary Bowman outside at corner.