Gerald Hayes, an eight-year veteran and starter for the past four seasons at middle linebacker, underwent back surgery this past summer and is not expected to be ready when training camp starts next week. Coach Ken Whisenhunt informed the media of the news on Wednesday.
Whisenhunt also reported that Hayes had the procedure performed several weeks ago. He will be evaluated next week when players undergo physicals before reporting to camp July 30 in Flagstaff. The timetable for his recovery will be determined after his physical.
Although Hayes is not a dominant fixture in the middle of Arizona’s defense, he’s been a model of consistency since joining the starting lineup. From 2006-2008, Hayes racked up at least 88 tackles in each season including a career-high 98 in 2007. In total, Hayes has accumulated 395 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four interceptions during his seven NFL seasons.
Hayes’ injury creates another issue at the already thin inside linebacker position. With Karlos Dansby’s departure in the offseason, the Cardinals signed Paris Lenon and drafted Daryl Washington to fill the void. Monty Beisel and Reggie Walker are behind Hayes on the depth chart and will be expected to fill in until he returns.
Both Lenon and Beisel are journeymen that have been relegated to backup roles throughout most of their careers. Meanwhile, Washington and Walker are less experienced players with very little experience at the professional level. Washington, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2010, needs to add bulk to a relatively undersized frame.
Ali Highsmith and Chris Johnson will also be in the mix at the position during camp. If Hayes misses extending time, the competition will be wide open heading into the regular season. Several of Arizona’s linebackers have been touted for their versatility and could switch positions to account for Hayes’ absence.
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