When the NFL free agency period opened back in March, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco wasted no time signing one of the best cornerbacks out on the market — Casey Hayward. Having lost Patrick Robinson to the Colts via free agency and concerns over depth in the secondary, the versatile Hayward was part of a Packers secondary that finished the season ranked sixth in pass defense.
Ranked 14th-overall on the Pro Football Focus’ top 75 free agent list, the 26-year-old Hayward is expected to challenge veteran Brandon Flowers for the starting cornerback spot opposite Jason Verrett. Following the annual Fan Fest activities at Qualcomm Stadium, MP reporter Art Garcia Jr. caught up with Hayward to ask him a few questions following practice.
Art Garcia: How does it feel coming to the Chargers?
Casey Hayward: It feels good man and today (FanFest) kind of solidifies it here at Qualcomm Stadium with this great atmosphere, and I would like to thank the fans for coming out. But it feels like I’ve been here for a while because all the guys have accepted me right away.
AG: You were on the radar of a few teams when free agency started, why did you decide to sign with the Chargers?
CH: I had a few, but I felt like San Diego was the right place for me. I felt this team was a few players away, and a few plays away, from being really good. Last year they had what — seven, eight, nine close games? And if you flip that around and win seven of those games then bam, you’re in the playoffs. So hopefully I can help this defense and get this team back into the playoffs.
AG: Having played the Chargers last season and seeing them up close and personal, how much did that influence your decision to sign here, if it did at all?
CH: Of course because I knew how close they were (to being a contender). I knew how close they were because we had to come back and beat them at the end of the game. They had good players last year and tore it up in Green Bay before we were able to come back and beat them. But I knew they had good players and it all starts with the quarterback, and when you have a guy like Phil (Rivers) you have a chance to be a really good team.
AG: Going up against Rivers this off-season, what was that like and did he start playing mind games with you?
CH: Oh no doubt, both me and him have been talking a little mess to each other, and that’s how me and Aaron (Rodgers) did it in Green Bay. He’s (Rivers) got that same feel (of) a Hall of Fame quarterback just like the guy I just left up in Green Bay. And anytime you get a chance to play with a guy of that caliber you always have a chance to win.
AG: So you see a lot of comparisons between Rivers and Rodgers?
CH: Oh yeah, of course. I don’t who’s better or not, but when you have Hall of Fame type quarterbacks who have the same caliber of plays, have won a lot of games, have passed for a lot of touchdowns and a lot of yards — you know they are winners.
The Endzone: Entering his fifth NFL Season, Hayward has started 20 out of the 51 games he has appeared in. The 5-foot-11-inch, 192-pound Hayward had a breakout rookie season in 2012, where he led all rookies with six interceptions and 21 passes defended.
Playing both cornerback and nickel for the Packers, he has totaled 168 tackles, 35 passes defended, nine interceptions and one touchdown in his short career. A former second-round pick (62nd overall) of the Packers, Hayward played college ball at Vanderbilt.