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From Aaron Rodgers to Philip Rivers: Practice doesn't get easier for Casey Hayward

Defensive back Casey Hayward has nine career interceptions in four seasons, including a career-high six his rookie year. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- New San Diego Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward had to face one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL every week in practice in Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

Those reps during one-on-one and team drills made the 26-year-old defensive back better. Hayward, who signed a three-year deal with the Chargers, understands he’s entering a similar situation in San Diego.

Instead of Jordy Nelson and Rodgers, it will be Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen.

Hayward is well aware of Rivers’ ability, after watching the veteran San Diego quarterback put up a franchise-record 503 passing yards against the Packers in a 27-20 loss San Diego at Lambeau Field in Week 6 of the 2015 season.

"Aaron, that’s my dude," Hayward said during an introductory news conference this week at Chargers Park. "He’s great. He’s one of the best to do it -- not just right now, but one of the best ever to do it. Going against him, I’ve seen him in practice make some of the craziest throws.

"I know I’m going to pick the ball off, and he makes one of the craziest throws, and then he looks and winks at me like, 'I got you.' And I just shake my head, go back to the huddle and mumble something under my breath. And I have to go back and do it again. And he’ll keep doing it, making those throws. It’s kind of crazy to see it in practice, and then you see it in the game. It’s unbelievable.

"But we’ve got one of those quarterbacks here in Philip. I went against him last year, and he threw for over 500 yards against us. So I’m pretty sure he’s just as special."

San Diego was a regular vacation destination for Hayward, and one of his favorite cities to visit. Now he will call this city home for potentially the next three NFL seasons.

Hayward said the Chargers will give him the opportunity to compete for the starting cornerback job opposite Jason Verrett against incumbent Brandon Flowers. But he also understands that most teams play at least three cornerbacks most of the time on defense, so he should see time on the field either on the outside or as a slot defender.

Hayward said he even played some snaps at safety in 2015.

"Of course, I want to play outside," Hayward said. "That’s my ultimate goal, to come in and compete with Jason, Brandon and all of those guys. They can push me every day, and I can also push them. And just make this team better."

The defensive schemes are similar in Green Bay and San Diego, making the transition easier for Hayward. Both teams play a lot of man coverage, Hayward said. Also helping Hayward is the fact that the Packers played the AFC West last season, so he’s familiar with some of the personnel he’ll be facing in 2016.

Hayward also said he’s friends with Melvin Ingram from their playing days in the SEC, when Hayward played at Vanderbilt and Ingram at South Carolina. Hayward and Ingram also were in the same 2012 draft class, and played together at the Senior Bowl.

Hayward pointed to Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams as players that helped take his game to the next level with the Packers, teaching him how to be a pro.

Hayward has nine career interceptions in four seasons, including a career-high six his rookie year.

"I’m good with my eyes, have great instincts and great ball skills," Hayward said, when asked to describe his strengths as a player. "Hopefully, I can bring some of that to the table here in San Diego. Hopefully, I can get the ball a lot more here in San Diego as well.

"It’s all about turnovers, getting the ball back for the offense, and getting Philip the ball as much as possible with Keenan and all of those guys."