ALAMEDA — The season hasn't even begun yet for the Oakland Raiders and they're already scrambling to field a healthy pair of offensive tackles.
Khalif Barnes, the team's starter on the right side for the past three years, has been moved to the left after injuries sidelined Jared Veldheer and Menelik Watson. Tony Pashos will replace Barnes in the lineup, less than a week after being signed as insurance.
Matt McCants, a sixth-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2012, is almost certain to be activated before Sunday's opener in Indianapolis just to add some depth to Oakland's makeshift line.
With Veldheer likely to miss half the season with a torn left triceps and Watson facing possible knee surgery, the situation isn't likely to get better anytime soon.
"Hey listen, it's a factor," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday. "It is what it is, and you've got to move on. We expect the other guys on the team, the guys that are out there, (to) pull in some of the extra slack. That's what you have to do."
Barnes is actually the fourth left tackle the Raiders have had since the beginning of training camp.
Veldheer, Oakland's best offensive lineman, was injured early in camp and underwent surgery in mid-August. Alex Barron, a former first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, was given the first crack at the job but failed to impress the coaching staff and was released by the team on Monday to clear room for Pashos.
Watson, the 44th overall pick in this year's draft, started at left tackle in Oakland's final preseason game but went down with a knee injury in practice earlier this week and has not returned.
That necessitated Barnes switching sides.
The ninth-year veteran played almost exclusively at left tackle during four seasons with Jacksonville. He was tabbed to play there for the Raiders, too, when he signed with the team in 2009 but wound up getting moved to right tackle before the season began.
"It's kind of like when you put your shoes on, and if you have a left-footed shoe and you put your right foot in it, you're like 'Something ain't right,"' Barnes said. "Unfortunately, we've got two guys hurt.
It's been a while but I'll get back on the bike and start riding again. There ain't no excuses."
Barnes may be on the left side for a while.
Veldheer might not return until sometime in October, and there is no timetable for when Watson might possibly return.
Allen, who was tightlipped about injuries for most of the preseason, declined to discuss details of Watson's injury but wouldn't rule out possible surgery for the rookie offensive lineman either.
"I don't like to comment specifically on when guys will be available," Allen said. "As soon as he's rehabbed and ready to go, he'll be back up and ready to play. I'm not going to get into whether it's surgery, not surgery, what the issues are. He wasn't able to practice. We'll go from there."
Pashos is simply trying to settle in after a whirlwind week after sitting out all of 2012 following ankle surgery. He'll be in Oakland's starting lineup, exactly one week after getting cut by the Washington Redskins.