By JOSH DUBOW
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When training camps opened, Derek Hagan was just worried about where he would get a job.
Hagan had to wait more than a week in a stressful period after the start of camps to sign a contract with the Oakland Raiders. Now with only one exhibition game and no practices left before the final cut-down day, Hagan appears to have solidified a spot on the Raiders roster with his hard work in practice and performance on the field.
With five years of NFL experience with Miami and the New York Giants, Hagan provides veteran leadership for a young receiving corps in Oakland. More important has been his production, most notably his six catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in an eye-opening performance last Sunday night against New Orleans.
"I know what I'm doing," Hagan said. "I know how to get open and the quarterbacks, they have the confidence in me to get open and make those plays. I just got to keep doing it."
Hagan has done it so far, making big plays almost daily on the practice field and translating that into the exhibition games so far. He has 10 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown in the preseason - tying for the third most catches and ranking second in yards in the league for the exhibition season.
Hagan told quarterback Jason Campbell when he joined the team that he just needed an opportunity to show what he can do in the NFL. He is sure making the best of it so far.
"I think he did a great job in a great opportunity of putting himself in the best position possible," Campbell said "I think he's a great guy. He's a great teammate and we'll see what happens. But he definitely made a statement."
With Louis Murphy expected to miss at least the opener with an undisclosed injury and Chaz Schilens sidelined by a knee injury, Hagan could have an important role for Oakland when the season starts Sept. 12 in Denver.
"I've always thought he was a good football player," coach Hue Jackson said. "Some players just need to get in the right environment to let their talent show. Obviously, it's been great since he's been here. So, I'm very happy for him. He's done a tremendous job and he's represented himself well."
Despite a stellar career at Arizona State with 258 catches for 3,939 yards and 27 touchdowns, Hagan was only a third-round pick in 2006 by Miami.
He started one game in three seasons with the Dolphins, before playing sparingly as a backup with the Giants in 2009. He was cut after the final exhibition game last season before the Giants brought him back midway through the year because of injuries. After catching 24 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown in seven games last season for the Giants, Hagan became a free agent in the offseason.
As other players signed deals and teams were deep into installing new systems, Hagan was home waiting for his phone to ring. Because of injuries to some of Oakland's regular wideouts, the Raiders called and ended up signing Hagan to a contract on Aug. 7.
"It was a little stressful just because free agency started so late," he said. "Normally, free agency starts way back in March, and now it started at the end of July, August, and it was stressing me out because other guys were in camp and I was still sitting at home trying to figure out where I wanted to go. I wasn't sure if I was going to sign back with New York, but you know, they didn't give me a call. So after that, I was just like, 'OK, it's time to go somewhere else.'"
Hagan has been a needed addition in Oakland. His 85 career catches are more than any other wide receiver on the team has and he also has far more NFL experience than his cohorts.
In a receiving corps known for its speed with blazers like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford, Hagan is known for a different attribute. Shortly after he arrived, Jackson praised him with a dig at some of the other players, saying Hagan understands that it's more important to study the playbook at night than to play video games.
Hagan said he learned that from veterans Chris Chambers and Marty Booker in Miami and he wants to teach that to his new teammates in Oakland.
"You got to get your study time in," Hagan said. "This is my job, this is my profession and it's something I love to do. I try to stick what I do best and that's playing football."
Notes: DT Richard Seymour was working on his own at practice as he recovers from a reported hamstring injury. ... Schilens was in uniform doing some individual workouts and drills as he tries to come back from a knee injury. ... OL Stefen Wisniewski returned to practice after sitting out Tuesday with a minor injury.
Link: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/31/3875816/hagan-makes-most-of-opportuni ty.html