ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates a touchdown during the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Photo: Kevin C. Cox
Photo: Kevin C. Cox

Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Eifert on track to return by training camp?

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert appears on track to be ready for the start of the season following his recovery from ankle surgery.

Eifert said after the team’s offseason voluntary workout session Tuesday that he hasn’t been limited much so far – a good sign he will be full-go by training camp in late July.

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The seventh-year tight end broke his ankle in a Week 4 win at Atlanta to end his 2018 campaign just as he was finally thriving following long recoveries from back and neck injuries that limited him to eight games in 2016 and two in 2017.

“I’m doing pretty much everything,” Eifert said. “There’s a couple things here and there but for the most part it’s all doing everything with the guys.”

The Bengals, despite changes under coach Zac Taylor, elected to give Eifert another shot at a comeback and signed him to a new one-year deal this offseason. Coming back to Paul Brown Stadium for workouts this spring has felt like a fresh start, he said.

Eifert hadn’t met Taylor until he arrived for the start of the offseason workout program at the end of March.

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“Just the energy is different here,” Eifert said. “It’s an excitement. You don’t really know what to expect. We’ve been here it seems a long time now. We’re just trying to get in that groove and trying to grind out every day and get better. … It’s just new faces, new things to learn.”

Normally this time of year, Eifert doesn’t find himself taking a lot of notes but that’s been the case so far. Taylor has been emphasizing note-taking, but Eifert said there is so much to learn, he would be taking notes regardless of whether the coach encouraged it or not.

“Being a new offense, there’s a lot of details, a lot of little things that make a big difference so it’s just making sure you have those drilled into your head so you don’t have to think about them and you can go out and play fast,” Eifert said.

Next week when Organized Team Activities (OTAs) begin, the Bengals will really step up what they’re doing on the field.

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Until then, they are limited in what they can do on the field, but ideas will be translated from paper to practice during OTAs as the offense is able to go against the defense for the first time since a narrow window allowed the Bengals to do so with an extra minicamp given to them because of the change in coach. There is still no live contact allowed but it’s the closest they will get before training camp.

Eifert is anxious for that next step. OTAs begin Monday.

“We’ve been practicing on air for a long time now,” Eifert said. “It’s always fun to go out and compete against the defense and put what we’ve learned to work, so it should be exciting.”

The Bengals have three weeks of OTAs, when they will meet for three or four days each week, and then they finish the offseason workout program with a mandatory minicamp June 11-13. The first practice of training camp is tentatively scheduled for July 25.

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When asked what he wants to accomplish before breaking for the summer, Eifert said there isn’t just one thing.

“To continue to progress, understand the offense as a whole and understand it to where you don’t have to think about it anymore and then pick a couple things on the field to try to improve on and get to camp healthy,” Eifert said.

Getting to camp healthy seems to always be a focus for Eifert these days. That’s why when the Bengals drafted Drew Sample in the second round, it almost seemed like an insurance policy in case Eifert wouldn’t be ready or gets injured again.

However, Taylor emphasized that is not the case at all. Both players bring different things to the tight end group, and while Eifert is more of a playmaker as a pass catcher, Sample was brought in mainly for his run-blocking ability.

Eifert said he has enjoyed getting to know Sample the past few days since the rookies arrived late last week, and he looks forward to playing with him.

“He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to working with him and seeing how he can help us win games,” Eifert said. “I haven’t watched him a lot on film or anything like that, but he seems like a good player just from the two days we’ve done — him, along with a lot of the guys in the tight end group. We have a deep group this year, a lot of guys that can contribute, so it’s exciting.”

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