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NAPA – Jared Veldheer is out for the foreseeable future.
Coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday that his star left tackle would have surgery to repair a left triceps tear suffered during training camp. A MRI conducted Tuesday afternoon revealed extensive damage that an Aug. 3 scan did not, leaving surgery as Veldheer’s best option.
[REWIND: Second MRI for Raiders' Veldheer]
“We sought a second opinion,” Allen said. “The second opinion was that we ought to go in and fix it, so we went back and took a look at it again. After sitting down, visiting with Jared, visiting with the doctors, we decided we’re going to go ahead and get it fixed.”
Allen said Raiders will likely place him on injured reserve with a designation to return, meaning he’ll be eligible to practice after six weeks of the regular season and play after eight NFL game weeks. They don't have to make that move until the regular season, so he wouldn't fully commit to doing so.
His rehab depends on the severity of the tear, which the Raiders declined to specify. If Veldheer's triceps is partially torn, as ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting, the recovery time is much quicker. It could still require three months recovery time, but that would put him in line to play the final seven games of the season. Considering Veldheer practiced and played wearing a protective brace in the nine days between MRIs, the muscle is likely only partially torn.
A full tear requires four months recovery, meaning Veldheer could be ready for the last three regular season games at most.
Veldheer's position complicates matters further. Offensive linemen use that muscle to create leverage and sustain blocks, meaning it must be fully healed and strong before he returns.
Veldheer will be pushing to get back because this is a contract year. He is at the end his rookie deal, meaning a huge payday was on its way. That's been mitigated somewhat, because a solid 2013 could've solidified his status as a top-tier left tackle. If he can prove the injury is behind him, the market might open up a bit.
Despite the huge loss, Allen gave his team little time to mourn.
“I think it’s a disappointment for all of us, but again, we’re going to play 16 games this year,” Allen said. “The mentality in the NFL is that the teams that are able to push through those things mentally, those are the teams that have success. Everybody’s got injuries and that’s one we’re just going to have to deal with.”
The Raiders will turn to an unexpected source for relief. Veteran castoff Alex Barron will replace Veldheer in the starting lineup beginning Friday in New Orleans. While he’s had a solid camp, Barron hasn’t played a regular-season game in two years and hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2009.
“Alex has been doing a lot of good things, and you know he’s going to work hard,” right tackle Khalif Barnes said. “He’s a selfless guy who has fit right in here. He should be okay.”
Barnes said Veldheer was in good spirits, considering the circumstances. Veldheer declined to speak with the press following Wednesday’s practice, shortly after the offensive line met briefly as a unit to discuss how to best absorb this major blow.
Veldheer is arguably the Raiders’ best player regardless of position, and is undoubtedly their best lineman. He’s been a rock, a steadying presence that missed just one snap in 43 consecutive starts.
The Raiders must find a way to play without Veldheer, who was a major component of the team’s power rushing scheme and chiefly responsible for keeping quarterback Matt Flynn on his feet.
“Jared is a great a player at an important position, and it’s a tough loss,” Flynn said. “We have guys that have to step up. I trust that we’ll get it figured out, but it’s hard to hear we’ve lost a guy like him.”