Just one week ago, on April 11, news emerged that Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert would be ready for 2017 training camp. Now, there’s new information out from the tight end that makes that earlier claim questionable.
In case you were wondering if we were in for another offseason of Eifert injury questions and pondering, it seems that question has been answered and the answer is yes, we are in the midst of another offseason of sitting around and hoping Eifert recovers sooner rather than later.
"I don't know," Eifert said via ESPN, when asked if he would be ready for training camp. "I'll have to see how I'm feeling and go from there."
This, just one week after Bengals.com reported that Eifert said he would “be ready and healthy and strong and be ready to go by the time it’s go time.” Go time was referred to as training camp.
Eifert was placed on Injured Reserve before Week 17 of the 2016 NFL season after failing to play in Week 16 with a back injury. He underwent back surgery before the completion of the season, which is the injury from which he’s currently recovering.
“I'm still doing my rehab and my core stuff, just started doing some change-of-direction stuff so I'm just taking it one step at a time," Eifert said.
Eifert has suffered many injuries during his four year NFL career. In 2014 he hurt his shoulder before the season started and then dislocated his elbow in Week 1; in 2015 he had a concussion and stinger; in the 2016 Pro Bowl he injured his ankle and needed surgery for it to recover. It was supposed to be “minor” surgery, but ended up being a major issue and caused him to miss the entire offseason and six games of the season. When he was almost healed from thank ankle injury, he then hurt his back. It's unclear if that back injury is related to his current one. He only played in Weeks 7 and 9-15 in 2016.
The Bengals reported to Cincinnati on Monday for the start of (optional) Organized Training Activities (OTAs). Phase I of OTAs includes only strength and conditioning work, which it sounds like he’ll be able to do some of, but, he’s clearly limited.
“I've still lost a lot of strength with the nerve issues and all of that stuff. Just working through some of that,” Eifert said. “Once I get my strength back I'll be fine.”
But, how fine will he really be? Per ESPN, Eifert said there will be limitations on what he can do for the rest of his days in the NFL due to the back injury, including doing squats when weight lifting.
“I've worked through a back (issue) before and you just find ways to get the same benefits from different lifts or different ways to work out,” Eifert said. “You just have to work around it, which is fine. I've done that before.”
Eifert has experienced a slew of injuries in his short NFL year and will be playing on the fifth year option of his rookie deal in 2017. The Bengals will soon need to decide if it’s worth it to pay Eifert like a top tight end for the long-run. The team may choose to extend his deal this offseason. But, if he can’t stay healthy, it may be best for the Bengals to wait to sign him to a long-term contract until he can prove his ability to do so. The Bengals could franchise tag Eifert in 2018 to keep him under contract, if they so choose.
There are more than four months remaining until the start of the 2017 NFL season and you should expect plenty of Eifert injury updates between now and then.