The Arizona Cardinals opened training camp this weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium, and something looked and felt noticeably different along their offensive line.
That’s because for the first time in recent memory, the team’s starting left tackle position will be viewed as a point of strength heading into the 2014 campaign.
General manager Steve Keim had to pay a pretty penny to solidify the spot, but the organization believes 27-year-old Jared Veldheer will be worth every ounce of his notable contract of five years and $35 million.
Veldheer spent his first four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders and quickly developed into one of the league’s up-and-coming stalwarts at left tackle.
Though Hulk-like in stature, listed at 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds, Veldheer does come to the Valley with a recent injury history that might be cause for some slight concern.
Veldheer underwent torn triceps surgery in Aug. 2013, which limited him to only five starts during his last campaign in Oakland.
Yet nearly a year removed from procedure, Veldheer admitted that all is well when it comes to his health.
“It feels awesome,” Veldheer told the media after the Cardinals’ morning training camp sessions Saturday. “It feels really good. It feels great.
“Ever since the winter and through the spring and summer it’s been fine. It hasn’t even bugged me lifting or during any kind of that stuff. I’m right back to where I was before surgery as far as strength. I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.”
The first-year Cardinal revealed that his body didn’t fully recover from the injury and subsequent surgery until April, but after going through OTAs and offseason workouts with his new squad, Veldheer said that he’s 100-percent ready for the upcoming season.
“Once that point hit where you’re really able to work it out hard and it didn’t get stiff and sore, you kind of knew it was good, it was ready to go and it was back,” he said.
A healthy, competent left tackle will be music to the ears of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer after the duo experienced a bit of a roller coaster at the position during Arizona’s 10-6 season.
In 2014, that likely won’t be the case.
If he has his way, the new guy on the line hopes to bring stability and a bit of accountability to the role.
“I just want to kind of work as hard as I can at it,” said Veldheer. “Be accountable to that spot and help my the team the best I can. It’s something I’ve always taken with me no matter the situation is. I want to do my job and to be accountable to all of the guys next to me and to the offense.