NAPA — The Raiders sustained a significant blow Wednesday with the news that starting left tackle Jared Veldheer will need surgery on his torn left triceps and will miss a significant portion of the upcoming season.
Veldheer has been bothered by the triceps throughout training camp and had a second MRI performed on Tuesday when it did not feel any better. After consulting with doctors and the team, Veldheer decided to have the surgery.
“It's a disappointment for all of us,” coach Dennis Allen said. “But again, we're going to play 16 games this year. The teams that are able to push through those things mentally, those are the teams that have success. Everybody has injuries. That's one we'll just have to deal with.”
Allen said Veldheer would miss a significant amount of time but hoped he would be back at some point this season. Allen said Veldheer would be a candidate to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, which would require him to miss at least the first eight weeks.
The Raiders can place Veldheer on that list starting Sept. 3. He would be required to sit for six weeks and then could practice for two more before being eligible to be activated in time for the team's eighth game on Nov. 3 against Philadelphia.
Teams can only use that designation on one player and Allen said he wouldn't know for sure whether that would be an option for Veldheer until after the surgery.
The injury to Veldheer gives a shot at a starting role to Alex Barron, a former first-round pick by the St. Louis Rams who has not played a game in the NFL since 2010.
“Of course it's an opportunity,” Barron said. “First and foremost, it's an opportunity to be here, period. It's another opportunity obviously to go up on the chart and help the team as best I can. My whole thing is I'm going to continue to work and try to help the team as best I can.”
Barron was drafted 19th overall in 2005 out of Florida State but struggled for almost his entire five seasons in St. Louis. He started 74 games and played both left and right tackle but was plagued by penalties and poor blocking.
He committed 43 false start penalties — including 13 in 2006 — and 13 holding penalties while allowing 33 sacks, according to game tracking from STATS LLC.
He was traded to Dallas in 2010 and played 11 games with the Cowboys. But Barron hasn't played since, spending a little time with New Orleans and Seattle without ever getting into a game.
“I think Alex has been playing very well,” quarterback Matt Flynn said. “I was with him in camp last year in Seattle. He seems like a different guy here. He's playing well, playing aggressive and really coming into his own.”
Veldheer was perhaps Oakland's most indispensable player, given his talent and the importance of the position he plays. He had started the past 42 games at left tackle, missing only one offensive snap in that entire time.
A third-round pick out of Hillsdale College in 2010, Veldheer was an emerging left tackle in the NFL who was counted on as a major piece of the Raiders rebuilding project. Veldheer was rated by Pro Football Focus as the eighth best pass-blocking left tackle in the NFL last season. He has been responsible for just four sacks in each of the past two seasons, according to STATS LLC.
“It's a real big blow,” right tackle Khalif Barnes said. “Jared's a big part of our line. He's a big guy. He comes to work every day, you never hear him complaining, just tries to go in, get the job done, he just tries to perfect his craft every day at practice. He's a good part of our team, a good leader for our team.”
The Raiders have been hampered by injuries on the line throughout camp. Right guard Mike Brisiel has been out all week as he struggles to recover from offseason ankle surgery. Lucas Nix, who is batting with Tony Bergstrom for the left guard spot, has also missed significant time in camp with an undisclosed injury. Second-round pick Menelik Watson has not practiced all camp with a calf injury.
With Oakland changing blocking schemes from a zone system last year to more power blocking this season, the lack of continuity on the line is concerning.
“It definitely hurts,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “We've had a couple of left guards in there, a couple of right guards in there, and now we're working with a new left tackle. But I think we're all communicating really well. I think it's just a matter of getting your footwork right, and getting some of those combination blocks right.”