Signed by the Redskins during the offseason to provide an instant veteran presence to help bolster the unit, the eight-year veteran has started 13 games and logged 161 defensive tackles during that span.
But his greatest successes haven’t appeared in any sortable statistical charts.
The special teams captain for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2011-13, Hayward is a rare breed that relishes special teams duties.
"To me, it's my job,” Hayward said. “So obviously my mindset is I'm going to do it to the best of my ability, you know, whatever the job may be. I’ve made a career, going on eight years, on special teams.
“That's a lot longer than anybody's even been able to play football for a lot of these guys. So when I go down there, I'm thinking in my head, this is what I have to do to help the team. So I'm going to go as hard as I can, as fast as I can and try to get younger guys in the right spot.”
Hayward was credited by his Tampa Bay coaches with a team-high 11 special teams tackles last season.
Now in Washington, he’s hoping to provide the same production and leadership.
For some of the younger players on the roster, the 2014 season is going to be their most extensive in special teams play and will have to fall back on Hayward for guidance.
"To me, it's rewarding,” Hayward said of working with the younger players. “You know when you're teaching these younger guys some of the tricks that I've learned over the years and seeing them get it, it's very rewarding passing stuff along. They'll come and ask me 'How do you get this block?' or 'How did you do that?' and ‘This is what I saw and I think if you do that this it'll help you out.’”
And while special teams is a little less glorified than making a clutch interception or a long touchdown, top-notch special teams play is one way players can make their name early.
“It's kind of cool just to see the younger guys get it because some of these guys you might not get a shot to be that big name like
Working With Kotwica
While Ben Kotwica – hired by the Redskins as special teams coordinator in January – brings a hard-nosed, tough coaching philosophy that some aren’t accustomed to at first, Hayward experienced a similar style during his first four seasons in the NFL.
"Coach Ben is awesome,” Hayward said. “He reminds me of my first special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia. I see a very similar coaching style and the method. To me, its second nature because he's a guy that's like ‘This is what I expect, go do it. Now if you've got different ways, how can we work together?’ And that's what I like.”
If they do see differences, they communicate and try to come to a conclusion that will benefit the entire unit.
“You know if I see something different I talk to him because I'm on the field. He's like ‘Okay, let’s try it, let’s change it up,’” Hayward said of their conversations. “I feel like coaches like that are going to make a big difference with the team. Like how (head coach) Jay (Gruden) is similar. You can talk to him.
“He's not headstrong, because we're the ones that are on the field. On paper it looks like ‘Oh, you should have done this.’ But when you're doing it on the field, it's different.”
Special Teams Captain Status
During one of his press conferences after the Redskins' 23-6 victory over the New England Patriots in the preseason opener, Gruden was asked about Hayward being named special teams captain for that game.
The decision – which was made by Gruden -- was simple. With it being the first game under Kotwica and the Redskins making a pointed emphasis on special teams play during the offseason, Hayward was the man the first-year head coach wanted to lead his special teams unit.
“Well, when you have a special teams coach like Coach [Ben] Kotwica and we are trying to preach the importance of special teams, it's very important to have players that buy in,” Gruden said. “Nobody buys in more than Adam. He is a great leader. He makes everybody accountable on the unit.”
Hayward, in fact, essentially plays a coach’s role on the field.
“It's one thing having coaches yell at you all the time but it's another to have players hold players accountable,” Gruden explained about Hayward. “That's what he does and that's what he is great at. He’s obviously a great special teams player – that’s well-proven and well-documented. But his leadership on that unit is also something that he thrives in."
While the decision on captains during the regular season has yet to be made, Gruden already likes what he’s seen out of Hayward in that role.
“During the regular season we'll decide how it goes after the preseason, we might vote,” the first-year head coach said. “I haven’t decided yet, but I like the group that I picked already with DeAngelo and Trent [Williams] and obviously Adam. Those are the most seasoned guys with the best performances. The body of work I think has been proven on the field and they're natural leaders.”