ALAMEDA -- Jared Veldheer's level of involvement remains a closely guarded secret, but his return to the Raiders to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving day draws a reaction befitting his 6-foot-8, 321-pound frame.

"Oh, man, it's huge," running back Rashad Jennings said.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen wouldn't say Tuesday if Veldheer would start or how much he'll play. He suggested Monday it would be on a rotational basis with Khalif Barnes, who has started all 11 games Veldheer missed following surgery to repair a torn left triceps.

During the brief media window at practice, Veldheer was working at left tackle with Barnes moving inside to left guard. Whether they start that way, or if Veldheer comes in with Barnes displacing Lucas Nix remains to be seen.

Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Jared Veldheer. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Jared Veldheer. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Veldheer has been back on the field for nearly three weeks, and got his first serious practice reps last week. He will be added to the 53-man roster from the injured reserve/designated for return list Wednesday before the Raiders charter leaves for Dallas-Ft. Worth.

"What you worry about are the fundamentals," Allen said. "He hasn't had a lot of reps. If practice wasn't important, we wouldn't do it. We'll get an opportunity to get him back out there and playing, and we'll see how things go."

With Veldheer considered one of the top young left tackles in the game, his loss was a major storyline in training camp. It was his first major injury and first surgery, and while Veldheer can't or won't say a lot about his role against the Cowboys, his enthusiasm for getting back on the field is evident.

"I'm feeling really good and fresh," Veldheer said. "It's an odd thing to feel that way in Week 13. That's something that builds confidence. I'm ready to get back out there and play."

At some point, Veldheer, who in his 42 starts has shut down the likes of Miami's Cameron Wake and Minnesota's Jared Allen, will be responsible for Dallas right end DeMarcus Ware, whose 116 sacks since 2007 lead all NFL players.

The Raiders have allowed 38 sacks, tied for the third highest in the NFL.

"I match up with a great rusher right off the bat," Veldheer said. "It's going to be a great challenge, and we're going to have to be on top of our game plan and go out there and execute."

The Raiders have been ravaged along the offensive front all season, with only Barnes and right guard Mike Brisiel playing every game, while Nix, center Stefan Wisniewski, center-guard Andre Gurode and tackles Tony Pashos, Matt McCants and Menelik Watson have all missed time because of injuries.

"I think everybody's healthy for the first time, which is awesome," said Wisniewski as he simulated knocking on wood. "It's only going to make us better as a group and it's exciting to see that finally."

With Pashos playing well on the right side after his return from a hip injury, Barnes, who was moved from right tackle to left tackle after Veldheer was hurt, volunteered to move inside to guard.

Other than 31 snaps against the San Diego Chargers in an emergency role, Barnes has been exclusively a tackle with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2005-08) and Raiders.

"To see him go from right tackle to left tackle and then volunteer and say, 'Hey coach, I'll go inside, whatever will make us better,' we're obviously real happy not just with the way he plays but his attitude," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.

As for the return of Veldheer, there's no overstating the importance.

"It will be huge," Wisniewski said.

For more on the Raiders, visit the Inside the Oakland Raiders blog at ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders. Follow Jerry McDonald on Twitter at twitter.com/Jerrymcd.

Thursday's game

Raiders (4-7) at Dallas (6-5),
1:30 p.m. CBS