Despite being 2-4, the Oakland Raiders have a lot to be excited about. The team has shown a lot of growth and stability as an organization this season, something many didn’t think was possible a few weeks ago, and the team has come together to be competitive week in and week out. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have shown that they are just as concerned with the long-term success of their team as they are with winning each and every week and deserve kudos for pulling together an NFL-quality roster with just a fraction of the salary cap.
The future is bright in Oakland, but the present has been dimmed by an unfortunate rash of injuries, especially to the offensive line. It is fortunate that the Raiders are on a bye this week, as some of their best players are eligible to return very soon, but the news isn’t as optimistic as Raiders fans would have liked.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer, who had surgery on a torn triceps after the first week of the preseason, and linebacker Miles Burris, who has had an unfortunately long recovery from knee surgery earlier this year, are now both eligible to return to practice. Once they start practicing, the Raiders will have two weeks to decide if they want to activate them to the 53-man roster or send them to injured reserve for the season.
In ideal circumstances, both players could start practicing this week and could be seeing game time in the next few weeks, but the Raiders appear to be taking their time with the situation. Veldheer isn’t eligible to play in a game until the home game against Philadelphia, and Burris has now been healing for over nine months, so the organization has decided to delay the decision as long as possible. Head coach Dennis Allen stated that the team was beginning to ease the team back into football-related activities, but neither Veldheer or Burris was “there yet and we [the coaching staff] won’t do anything to acclimate those two guys until we feel they’re confident that they’re ready to go.”
It is refreshing to see the organization exercising patience, maintaining a long-term vision of success over short-term gains. Fans have to be excited that the team has been competitive in games, but it is important to maintain perspective and see that the 2013 season is still a long-term development season, where the team is evaluating talent before truly making noise next season and beyond. While the Raiders have shown that they are more than capable of competing this season while still preparing for the future, the team is showing patience and isn’t straying from their long-term vision.
It would be wonderful if Veldheer and Burris could return right away, but it is possible that either will take longer to heal than expected. Expect the Raiders to take as long as possible to decide on what to do, as both players could possibly return if everything goes according to plan. The Raiders are no strangers to delicate injury situations, and McKenzie and Allen both know that Veldheer and Burris are critical long-term building blocks for the team. While both would greatly help the team this year, it is imperative that McKenzie and Allen keep their vision of long-term success and do what is best for the team.