Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert teased fans with a tweet Monday saying he was back in Cincinnati and “feeling great.”
Then, the Bengals placed him on the physically unable to perform list Thursday ahead of the start to training camp.
However, all is not bleak. While Eifert was limited to the rehab field on the first day of camp, he at least appeared to be moving well in conditioning and agility drills.
Eifert declined an interview after practice, but quarterback Andy Dalton remains optimistic about his return.
“He’s going to get back whenever he is ready,” Dalton said. “I know he’s felt good, so whenever the time is for him, we’ll be ready for him. For him, he doesn’t need to rush anything. He just needs to be ready for when the season comes.”
The Bengals haven’t had Eifert for a full season since he was drafted in the first round in 2013. He played 15 of 16 games his rookie year, but had just one appearance in 2014 and played only 10 games combined over the last two seasons. Cincinnati re-signed him to a one-year, incentive-laden deal in March.
As usual, head coach Marvin Lewis doesn’t seem concerned. After practice Thursday, he laughed off a question about the status of Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was placed on the non-football injury list for undisclosed reasons.
“They’ll both be fine,” Lewis said with a smirk. “We will be happy when we’re ready to have them back.”
While Eifert looked capable of potentially doing more Thursday, the same cannot be said for Burfict, who cut his work out short after about 40 minutes.
Burfict will begin this season with a four-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy, but was a surprise to not be with the full team for the start of training camp after defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Tuesday he planned for Burfict to have a normal preseason.
“Sometimes guys don’t have an opportunity to finish their work because they get a little nick as they are working out leading up to camp,” Lewis said Thursday. “If guys are not ready to necessarily finish their conditioning test and so forth, we have the ability to fail them on the physical and put them in that situation to allow them to get in the best shape they can to be out here in practice with us.”
Ryan Hewitt also is on the non-football injury list but kept up with Eifert in drills. The only other injury of note occurred in practice when rookie offensive guard Rod Taylor, a seventh-round draft pick, suffered an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off the field.
Rookie center Billy Price, who underwent pectoral surgery after the NFL Combine, was full-go Thursday for the first time since the Bengals took him in the first round of the draft in April, but it was a bit of a rough start. The former Ohio State University captain put three snaps on the ground.
“That’s the first time he’s had to block the guy over him,” Lewis said. “He worked there all spring against the guys not moving back, but this is the first time he’s had a chance to work against guys in different color jerseys so it’s a little different. There’s Part 1 and then Part 2, so that was good to see. Today, he had his bad day out but he’s spent his one bad day.”