ALAMEDA -- Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer hadn’t missed a practice, let alone a game, in three years as a pro. He hadn’t had football-related surgery in his entire life.
This down stretch was all new to the hulking lineman, and it wasn’t too fun. He partially tore his left triceps in training camp, had Aug. 16 surgery to repair it and spent the next three months on injured reserve.
All was not lost. Promise came in the designation to return.
At long last, the left tackle returned to practice Wednesday and spoke to the press Thursday in better spirits than any time since the injury.
“This is the first time I’ve missed a significant period,” Veldheer said. “You want to be out there and you want to be part of the 11 guys on the field. That part is tough, but just being able to step out on the practice field these last couple days has been excellent.”
Veldheer took a psychological lift from each milestone, especially clearance to ramp up his conditioning. Two weeks later, he was back on the practice field. Now he’s preparing for an official return to game action.
“We’re taking it day-by-day,” Veldheer said. “We’ll see how I respond to each practice and we’ll make a judgment call about when to play again.”
Sunday’s game against Houston seems unlikely, though the Nov. 24 home game against Tennessee is well within reach.
Veldheer is knocking off some rust, though less that one might think.
“It was an arm injury, so I could still do run footwork and pass drops, so I don’t really feel like that’s rusty,” Veldheer said. “It’s more about getting back in the routine of having guys come across the ball and knowing when to strike them. I have to activate at a certain time while moving my feet. It’s that kind of thing.
“That stuff comes back quick. That’s part of the process right now and over the past couple weeks. You have work through some hurdles, but I’ve been working on some football techniques.”
The Raiders need him back yesterday. Inserting their best player in at left tackle would allow Khalif Barnes could move back to the right (or maybe left guard), strengthen two spots at once.
Veldheer isn’t going to rush. That’s why his rehab remains on schedule. He hasn’t cut a single corner during this process, in the interest of returning fully healthy and ready to help.
The tunnel’s light has grown far brighter than it was three months ago. Veldheer said it felt surreal being so far removed from the team and its activities. The biology major tried to learn everything about the procedure and how it would heal. He went to each meeting and stayed in tune with his linemates, all in the interest of coming back as ready as possible.
Mission accomplished. Veldheer’s on the cusp of a return to game action, ready and excited as ever to make an impact.
“There hasn’t been a corner that’s been cut or something swept under the rug to get back,” Veldheer said. “Everything has been done correctly. That gives me great confidence.”