CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch defended by Marcus Gilchrist #21 of the Houston Texans during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium on September 14, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Tyler Eifert on returning to Cincinnati: ‘It’s the place I call home’

Tyler Eifert admitted he was open to the idea of moving on to another team if it didn’t work out to remain with the Cincinnati Bengals.

As free agency began last week, the six-year veteran tight end found himself wanting more and more to stay. On Monday, the Bengals made it official he would be back for at least one more year.

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Cincinnati signed Eifert to another one-year deal, giving him a seventh season in stripes despite a series of unfortunate injuries that limited him to 14 games over the past three years. He looks forward to being a part of what looks to be an exciting offense in 2019 under new coach Zac Taylor.

“I’m super excited,” Eifert said on a conference call with local media. “I haven’t really talked to Coach (Taylor) much about the scheme or any of those types of things, but I’m excited just for another opportunity to play, especially with the Bengals. Just to play for another year, I’m pretty excited. And to get to go out and play games with all those guys in the locker room that I’ve been there with for six or seven years now, I’m looking forward to that.”

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“I just enjoy it here,” Eifert added. “I enjoy the guys in the locker room and I enjoy the city. It’s the place I call home now, so that became more of an emphasis to try to stay.”

Eifert said there were opportunities to go elsewhere but not as many as the year prior when he was more clearly set on returning to Cincinnati.

There was a point where he wasn’t sure he would even be able to play again after a freak play in Game 4 of the 2018 season sent him into clear agony with a broken ankle. Trainers popped his ankle back into place on the field and he missed the rest of the year.

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Surgery the following day was quite the process. Doctors repaired his deltoid ligament, put in what is called a tight rope for his syndemosis ligament, which holds the two leg bones together close to the ankle joint, and then they put in a plate with screws. Because of the way he broke his ankle, his syndemosis ligament basically unzipped and broke his fibula just below the knee. He also had some chips in the bones that were cleared out.

“There were a lot of emotions and a lot of thoughts, not all positive ones,” Eifert said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I guess you can expect that coming off that type of injury. But once I kind of got over the hump and they got my ankle put back together and the pain started to go away and I started to see progress, it’s a pretty straight forward, they put some stuff in there and it’s good to go. So it shouldn’t bother me anymore. It’s not like something else that I would have to be worried about re-injuring. So that’s kind of helped to get that confidence back and the feeling that I can do this again and the whole injury thing is in the past and you’re just working as hard as you can to get back in shape and back to your old self.”

Eifert has been through a serious ankle injury before after landing awkwardly on his left foot during the Pro Bowl following the 2015 season. The ligament he tore then didn’t heal properly with rehab so that May he underwent surgery and missed the first eight games of the 2016 season.

Going through that made this one a little more easier to handle, he said. Eifert said it took a while before he was able to go back and watch film of the play that sidelined him for the final 12 games of 2018, but now he views the gruesome injury as a badge of honor.

Eifert said he is close to 100 percent healthy. He has no limitations in his workouts but has not yet been officially cleared.

“Just judging from the other ankle injury, there’s going to be some soreness and tightness that you just have to work through and eventually it will not get swollen after a workout or not stiffen up and then you’re good to go,” Eifert said. “You’ve just got to monitor it for the time being.”

Eifert said he’s long overdue for a full year on the field but he still believes his best football is ahead of him.

“I’ve been saying that for three years now,” Eifert said. “…I guess the good thing for me is I don’t have nagging hamstrings and groins. I’ve just had some freak things happen, some kind of unfortunate injuries. But who knows? You never know what’s going to happen, but I intend to stay healthy and finish out a long career.”

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