The biggest injury for the Raiders this training camp was also to one of their biggest and most important players - left tackle Jared Veldheer. He underwent surgery last Friday to repair a partially torn triceps muscle in his left arm. Now the Raiders must brave at least part of the season without him.
Veldheer had started 42 straight games for the Raiders so this surgery and rehab is a very new experience for him.
"It's strange. It's not something that I've ever been through," said Veldheer. "First football related procedure that I've ever had done. It's disappointing, it's tough but the only thing that I'm focused on now is putting all my attention into getting after it and rehabbing and getting back on the field."
The typical timeline for a surgery of this nature is 3 months which would have him back after week 9 of the season. Dennis Allen said the team's intention was the place him on partial season injured reserve which would make him eligible to return as after week 8 of the season.
"My goal's as soon as possible, obviously, but they gotta check, I got another follow up appointment next week and they'll start learning more as far as dates and times to shoot for then." Said Veldheer.
There have been some who pondered whether the injury Veldheer suffered was related to the workout regimen he had this off-season that had him looking like the Hulk's evil twin. But Veldheer says it had nothing to do with it.
"Naw, I think it's one of those things that you don't ever really plan for or see coming," said Veldheer. "The training protects all of that for the most part. I'm not sure exactly what I can do in the future to kind of prevent that stuff but I'll figure that out too and add that to the routine to make sure that I'm staying healthy and keeping all that soft tissue in good shape."
Another concern was that perhaps Veldheer made things worse when, after the initial MRI came up negative, he returned to practice and even played in the team's preseason opener before eventually getting the positive diagnosis.
"I don't think I necessarily made it any worse practicing with the brace. I think they were able to brace it up good and protect it that way. I don't think any further damage was done. I think whatever happened initially was the thing they ended up seeing in the second MRI. . . it wasn't really getting better and it just didn't have that usual strength and I just wanted to check back up and make sure everything was ok and it turns out that it wasn't."
Now the Raiders must go without him and try to make do. Despite the terrible performance in the game last week and the injuries at the position, Veldheer has complete faith in his replacement(s).
"Besides responding to me, I've seen them step out there and not really lose too much. The guys are working hard and I have great faith in that unit and trust in that unit. Those guys are gonna do awesome. I wish I could be out there with them but, like I said, I gotta get this thing better."
"Those guys are all stepping up ready to take on the challenge and do their jobs. I don't think there's any kind of nervousness going around or anything like that. We've got a very focused group that works really hard and, like I said earlier, I have great faith that they're gonna step up and do a great job."
Offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, isn't quite as enthusiastic about the situation in Veldheer's absence. Then again, he has more authority to be blunt about it.
"Going into the season, the power schemes, the gap schemes, Jared was an important part of that," said Olson. "We didn't get a real chance last week to evaluate that part of the game as much as we would like to. . . We'll continue to try to fill that role. It will be a difficult role to fill and somebody's gonna have to step in and fill those shoes but philosophically speaking, do we feel like we have the players right now? With Jared, he was obviously and important piece of what we're trying to do but we feel like right now, we'll take a look at Alex Barron and continue to evaluate him as we move forward."
There is at least a bit of depth at the position which will allow the team to evaluate more players in their attempts to replace Veldheer while he is out half the season.