NAPA – Reporters approached Jared Veldheer as he left the Raiders practice field on Aug. 14, just moments after the team announced their star left tackle would miss most of the upcoming season.
Veldheer put his hand up and his head down, indicating that he would make no comment. Not then, not with emotions so raw.
Veldheer welcomed the media on Wednesday, clearly in a better space. He had a week to digest unwelcome events and prepare for a long rehab ahead.
He expressed disappointment in a partially torn left triceps surgically repaired and the games he’ll miss. He vowed to play as soon as humanly possible and seemed ready to tackle this foreign challenge head on.
“I’ve never been through something like this before,” Veldheer said. “This is my first football-related procedure and it’s disappointing that it happened now. The only thing I’m focused on now is rehab and getting back on the field.“
That could take a while. Rehabs of this nature typically take three months, but an exact timetable is not known.
“They have to check back at a follow up appointment I have next week,” Veldheer said. “I’ll start learning more about dates and times to shoot for then.”
Veldheer described his ailment as a fluke sustained during a normal pass protection drill early in camp. He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, but knew something was wrong.
Veldheer had an MRI on Aug. 3 that didn’t reveal significant damage, so Veldheer returned to practice the following day with a protective brace on his arm. He practiced 10 days after that, but something still wasn’t right. He sought a second opinion, and surgery was recommended.
The loss came as a shock to the Raiders, who looked lost without him in last week’s exhibition at New Orleans. Coordinator Greg Olson said Tuesday that the Raiders offense would be tweaked to account for his loss and the lack of a viable replacement.
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The offensive line is still under construction. It received a huge boost with the return of rookie Menelik Watson, who can play left tackle in Veldheer’s place should Alex Barron not pan out, but there is significant work left to be done.
“It’s like having a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, and you’re trying to fit those pieces together,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “The longer you look at it, the longer you work on it, the easier it is to put those pieces into place. I think we’re getting closer to figuring that out, and I think the offensive line is responding positively. Obviously the loss of a player like Jared is tough to replace, but that’s the nature of this business. I think those guys understand that somebody else has to step up.”
Veldheer will do whatever he can to help that unit until he gets back.
“Anything they need, I’ll do,” Veldheer said. “If I can help break down tape or offer advice, I’ll do it. I wish I could be out there with them, but right now I have to get this thing right.”