Tyler Eifert suffered a labrum injury in his left shoulder during OTAs last year, when safety George Iloka landed on Eifert's shoulder while the tight end dove for a catch. It took time for the insanely-private Bengals to acknowledge the injury last year, merely stating that it wasn't related to a neck stinger; eventually the team moved from "not stinger" to shoulder. Instead of having it surgically repaired, Eifert relied on a pain threshold.
Jermaine Gresham was recovering from his own injury, leaving enough concern at the tight end position that Cincinnati resigned Alex Smith. Following a handful of plays during the regular season opener in 2014, Eifert was eventually lost for the season when he dislocated his elbow against the Ravens.
Eifert was placed on the Injured Reserve list with a designation to return and began a slow rehabilitation, at least 15 pounds of lost muscle and the time it would take to rebuild his conditioning . "It's just hard when you're starting over physically," Eifert said earlier this month. "I lost a lot of weight (about 15 pounds), a lot of muscle. I couldn't really do anything there for three or four months." He finally had surgery on the shoulder, as well as his elbow.
"The elbow was medically cleared a few weeks ago, but Eifert did not receive clearance on the shoulder until visiting Dr. James Andrews last week," writes Jay Morrison with the DDN.
After being cleared by Dr. James Andrews, Eifert suited up for Tuesday's OTA practice and performed during seven-on-seven sessions. "We're just kind of taking it day to day, just easing back into things," Eifert said via ESPN.com. "My shoulder and elbow are cleared 100 percent, but I'm just getting back into things gradually."
Just witnessed a Dalton-to-Eifert hook-up on a slant. So there's your Tyler Eifert update for the day. #Bengals— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) May 26, 2015
"I was just happy to be out there running around in uniform with a helmet on and going through most of the drills," Eifert said via the Dayton Daily News. "I’m in no rush. Everything is healthy, but we’re just taking it slow to begin with. I’ll be out there (for 11-on-11s) soon enough."
With the departure of Jermaine Gresham, who is recovering from a surgically repaired herniated disc, Eifert is the defacto No. 1 tight end for the Bengals. He's joined by four rookies in third-rounder Tyler Kroft, fifth-round C.J. Uzomah and college free agents John Peters and Matt Lengel, as well as first-year player Jake Murphy.
Pete Prisco with CBS Sports named Eifert one of Cincinnati's breakout players of 2015:
"He suffered a torn right labrum last offseason, put off surgery, and then dislocated his elbow in the opener, ending his season," writes Pete Prisco. "He is expected to be ready for the opener, and should be a big part of the offense. Jermaine Gresham is gone, so the Bengals need a big year from Eifert catching the football."
Eifert, Cincinnati's former first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, posted 39 receptions during his rookie season for 445 yards receiving and two touchdowns.