During last Friday's practice at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden left the field with a hamstring injury. He was initially labeled as week-to-week but it was revealed today that Hayden has a torn hamstring and will miss the 2013 season.
"He's got a severe hamstring [injury]," coach Marc Trestman said after today's practice. "He'll be out six to eight months to rehab and surgery will be imminent."
Hayden took over as the club's starting nickelback midway through last year and assumed that role again this offseason. In his recent absence, second-year player Isaiah Frey has been thrust into the starting lineup, but Trestman was hesitant to anoint last year's sixth-round pick as the first-team nickelback.
"I think Isaiah has got to come out and continue to do what he's doing, make plays when he gets the opportunity to be in the right place and do the right thing, and he's doing that," Trestman said. "He's certainly in the competition right now to be that guy.
"We've got a long way to go. It's early in training camp, we've got three more weeks to go, or thereabouts. It'll take care of itself as we move along. He's certainly exciting us the way he's played consistently and practiced consistently and made plays consistently in the first week and a half or two weeks of this thing."
Throughout camp, Frey has been the most impressive defensive back on the team. If that continues, the club may not miss Hayden, who ranked as the worst corner on the team last year according to Pro Football Focus.
"I think Isaiah Frey, he's going to have a much larger role and have to step up, and I think he's capable of doing that," said safety Chris Conte. "He's a young guy, and it's a chance for him especially on Friday night to prove what he can do and show the coaches that he can handle the responsibility and more importantly show the players that he knows what he's doing and he can make plays. I think he can do that."
Frey will have an opportunity to prove he belongs in the starting lineup this Friday when the Bears face the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener. For his part, Frey said the injury to Hayden was of more concern than the upcoming game.
"I'm not really thinking about that right now. I'm just doing what the coaches ask me to do," said Frey. "A good friend of mine and good teammate injured himself, I'm just really praying he gets healthy."
Still, he said he's ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
"You have to go in there expecting to make plays. That's what I plan on doing."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.