Another year, another offseason full of injury updates for Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
The latest comes in the form of back surgery that was done before Week 17 of the 2016 season. Eifert had a back injury that popped up in the team’s Week 15 loss to the Steelers. He reported symptoms to the team medical staff on Dec. 20 and was inactive for the final two games.
Now two weeks into April, Eifert is doing well in his rehab and is confident he’ll be ready for the 2017 season, according to Bengals.com.
Eifert doesn’t know when he’ll be cleared to resume regular workouts or work in the May and June camps, but he says he’ll ready for training camp. He isn’t running full steam yet, but he’s been running enough that he feels he’s close to being in tip-top shape.
“I’ll be ready and healthy and strong and be ready to go by the time it’s go time,” Eifert said. “I’m close.”
It’s unfortunate Eifert is banged up nearly every offseason, but he’s hoping to shed that injury-prone label in 2017. It helps that he’ll have more of this offseason to work out and train than he had in either of the last two offseasons.
“It will be nice to have somewhat of an offseason to get ready for the year,” Eifert said. “Instead of coming into camp straight off of injury.”
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 limited his playing time.
Then, Eifert 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, while working out during a closed practice preparation for the Cowboys game.
In eight games this past season, Eifert caught 39 passes for 394 yards and five touchdowns. He now has 18 touchdowns during his last 21 games. He was a big reason why the Bengals went 3-4-1 from Weeks 7-15 vs 3-5 in every other game. If he’s healthy and in the lineup for all 16 games, the Bengals likely would have been a much better team last season, with a more effective offense.
“I feel like I’m a good player,” Eifert said, “and if I can stay healthy and be on the field, I think I can help us win and score points.”
Eifert is a talented playmaker and a key part of the Bengals’ offense, but unfortunately, he’s been injured far too often. He's played 37 regular season games, and one playoff game and has missed 28 regular season games and two playoff games since joining the Bengals as a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. In total, he’s played 38 of a possible 68 Bengals games including the playoffs, since entering the league.
All of this makes for some interesting contract discussions between the Bengals and Eifert, who enters 2017 under the final year of his rookie deal. Since it’s the fifth-year option year, Eifert will be paid nicely, with about $4.8 million, and he’s not worrying about a long-term deal.
“That’s another thing you really can’t help,” Eifert said. “You just go out and play your best. Make sure you’re prepared to play. I just want to do what I’ve been doing, stay healthy, and help us win games.”
If Eifert can stay healthy and play in most, if not every game in 2017, he should get a very nice contract next year while also helping Cincinnati get back into playoff contention this season. There’s also a possibility that the Bengals work on a long-term deal for Eifert between now and the start of the 2017 season.