BEREA, Ohio— After three years spent with the Dallas Cowboys, Nick Hayden sat at his home in Pewaukee, WI waiting for a call.
From January to July, the 30-year-old free agent was patient, but the nerves continued to grow.
Luckily, he had his family to keep him busy.
“I got that time off to spend time with my family and stuff like that,” Hayden said. “It was kind of nice to spend back home and enjoy myself a little bit.”
As he worked out and waited, Hayden didn’t know if his NFL career was over. He had a productive season in Dallas and felt as though he had some good seasons left in him. Still, the lack of interest was frustrating.
On July 13, the Browns announced that starting DL Desmond Bryant tore his pectoral muscle during an offseason workout and would likely be gone for the season.
Just nine days later, Hayden signed a contract with Cleveland.
“I was always confident that (a) team was going to call,” Hayden said, “and I was going to be ready to go.”
While Hayden was excited for the opportunity to replace a potential playmaker for the Browns, he was looking forward to learning a new system as well.
For all of his eight-year career in the NFL, Hayden was a 4-3 defensive tackle. The Browns and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, of course, run a 3-4.
“It’s my first time in a 3-4 defense,” Hayden said. “As an older veteran, it’s always fun to learn something new as the years go on. It’s been great learning it so far.”
Hayden's responsibility before was mostly to read and react. Now, he’s more structured to specific gaps on the offensive line.
The difficult part for him, thus far, has been more the new terminology than the actual practice of playing in a new defense.
"Football is kind of football,” Hayden said. “It's like riding a bike. Take the training wheels off and just get going again. For me, at this age, it's pretty much football's football. I know what to expect and just keep going from there."
Thus far in Training Camp, Hayden has been playing on the left side of the center, next to second-year defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who’s impressed the veteran thus far.
“Danny, he’s physical, he’s strong. You can tell that he deserved to be a first-round pick,” Hayden said. “What he brings to the team is, he’s a great leader, he brings a lot of energy.”
Shelton reminds Hayden a bit of himself in the energy department.
When asked to describe his style of play, Hayden was quick to answer.
"I'm relentless,” Hayden said. “I'm going to get after it each play, play hurt if I've got to play hurt, play physical, just get after them. I'll always be the one running to the ball. You'll always see me going after the ball and just being a leader out there and helping the guys out as best as I can.”
Being on the first-team defense bodes well for Hayden and his chances to make an impact on the Browns this season, but the lineman knows just how quickly things can change.
That’s exactly why he’s enjoying every moment he can while he’s on the field.
“If I’m done, I’m done, but obviously I still want to play,” Hayden said. “I’m glad (the Browns) gave me the opportunity to come in and show what I’ve got and hopefully I can bring a lot to the team.”
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