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Tyler Eifert considering season-ending back surgery, per report

The Bengals could be losing their Pro Bowl tight end yet again for the majority of a season.

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NFL: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE 6:30 p.m. EST

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Tyler Eifert and the Bengals should have a decision sometime Thursday, so at least we’ll get some closure fairly soon, one way or the other.

The Cincinnati Bengals are bracing for the loss of Tyler Eifert for the rest of 2017.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Eifert is deciding if he should undergo surgery on his ailing back, which would end his 2017 season.

This would be a brutal loss for the Bengals and Eifert, who is in a contract year and looking to collect a big payday next offseason. It’s possible the Bengals could use the franchise tag on him in 2018, which would still be a bigger payday than he’s gotten to this point in his five-year career. It’s also possible the Bengals part ways with Eifert after the 2017 season.

Losing Eifert for the year would be good news for Tyler Kroft, who is enjoying a breakout season with Eifert sidelined. Kroft has looked great in recent weeks, almost Eifert-like with his big frame and ability to pull down contested passes over the middle.

Still, it’s hard to see Kroft or any other Bengals tight end ever topping what Eifert was in 2015, where he became the NFL’s second-best tight end behind only Rob Gronkowski.

Eifert played in Weeks 1 and 2 this season before missing each game since due to the back injury. He has never played a full 16-game season and has played a total of 39 out of 69 possible regular season games in his five-year NFL career to date. Eifert missed the final two games of the 2016 NFL season due to a back injury, which ended up requiring surgery.

This is the latest in a long list of injuries Eifert has suffered in his career. After dislocating his elbow in the first game of the 2014 season (after also injuring his shoulder in offseason workouts leading up to that season), Eifert later had surgery that kept him out for a good portion of the 2015 offseason, but he still returned in time for training camp that year. In 2015 he experienced a concussion and stinger, which cost him three games.

Eifert later suffered an ankle injury in the 2016 Pro Bowl, which led to offseason surgery that caused him to miss the start of the 2016 season. He missed four games due to the ankle injury before missing two more games with a back strain he suffered in practice leading up to Week 5. In eight games last season, Eifert caught 39 passes for 394 yards and five touchdowns.

The hope was Eifert would get some much-needed rest during the bye week, then return to action when the Bengals face the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 7, a game that will go a long way in deciding the winner of the AFC North.

Having Eifert in Pittsburgh may very well have been a difference-maker, but that looks highly unlikely now. Based on Schefter’s report, the Bengals will be lucky to get Eifert back at any point this season.