Veldheer, who played for the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, could still achieve the milestone if the Packers advance past the Rams and into the NFC championship game.
Veldheer was moved from the practice squad to the active roster by the Colts, and after their playoff loss he returned to the practice squad, which meant another team could sign him. Although new players were subject to a six-day intake process even if coming from another team, that rule was changed late in the season to allow a player to join a team immediately if he was coming from another team and had been subject to coronavirus testing protocols. In past seasons, a player with Veldheer’s NFL experience would not have been eligible for the practice squad, but a change in the rules this season created more roster flexibility during the pandemic.
The move was a necessity for the Packers, who lost David Bakhtiari for the rest of the season to a knee injury he suffered in practice before the regular season finale. Veldheer, who played every offensive snap for the Colts against the Bills, appeared to be a handy solution. He gave the Packers depth and had an added advantage because he was with the Packers, who brought him out of retirement, in November 2019. He started in last year’s divisional-round win over the Seattle Seahawks.
This time, Veldheer was signed to back up Rick Wagner, who has been dealing with injuries to both knees and is in doubt for the game against the Rams and their formidable pass rush, led by Aaron Donald. Wagner was limited in practice for a second straight day Wednesday.
Veldheer, 33, has started 114 games in his career, which also included stops with Denver, Arizona and Oakland. A third-round draft pick by the Raiders out of Hillsdale (Mich.) College in 2010, he was out of the league in 2019 until he joined the Packers late in the season. All it took to get him to play again in 2020 was a call, and he joined the Colts in December, starting in Week 17 as well.
Veldheer kept in shape during his time away from the game and coached offensive linemen at East Grand Rapids (Mich.) High. When the Colts called, he was ready. “I do a lot of training out of leisure,” he told the Athletic. “It’s kind of a hobby of mine, not to sound like a meathead or anything.”
The playbook was another matter. “I went to a good school, Hillsdale College, and they taught me how to study,” Veldheer said. “I went through all their pre-med courses, and there was a lot of challenging stuff.”
Veldheer has played on two teams that advanced to the conference championship game (the Cardinals in 2015 and last year’s Packers), and now he joins a team that many think may play in the Super Bowl. If it does, he has another shot at a rare distinction. Per NFL protocols, a player must wait at least 10 days to return to football activities, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart if he does not have symptoms.
It’s an unusual opportunity, “especially being away from the game the majority of the season,” he said. “When you’re sitting at home watching football week after week, you really get itchy to finally get to the Super Bowl and get a ring.”