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CINCINNATI – There might not be a player more eager for the regular season to arrive than Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert, the Fort Wayne native, spent most of the preseason as an observer, resting and rehabbing a “nicked” shoulder that kept has limited him since earlier this summer. His only action in preseason games was 19 snaps in the first preseason game.
“I'm excited to get out there,” Eifert said. “Maybe a day off here and there in camp is nice, but when you're watching for most of it, you get pretty antsy to get back in there. I'm ready to go.”
Eifert enters his second season with the Bengals, and most observers expect his role will be expanded this season. As a rookie out of Notre Dame last season, he was essentially the No.2 tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. But their numbers weren't far apart. Gresham caught 46 passes for 458 yards and four touchdowns. Eifert caught 39 for 445 yards and two touchdowns.
The second time around in the NFL has been smoother, Eifert said.
“It's been more low-key or easier just because you understand how things work,” he said. “You're not trying to learn the offense. Obviously, you're still studying it to learn the nuances, but it's been a lot better not being a rookie.”
Eifert said it's hard to single out one area that he expects to improve as a second year player.
“I'm always working on my blocking,” he said. “I don't really pick one thing to work on. There's always a lot of things to work on, understanding defenses and leverage of defenders and where they don't want you to go and how you can try to manipulate them when you're running routes.”
Before the shoulder injury limited his play, he had been regularly catching both deep balls and more tight end-oriented mid-range passes.
"We feel like we get looks and matchups with him, and he makes big plays," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said earlier this fall. "That's what he did in college. It's what we expect of him now. He's been in the right spots and we're getting looks that we want and we're hitting them."
The Bengals decided to take it slow on returning Eifert to action in order to allow his shoulder issue to subside. Eifert said he is 100 percent healthy now.
“It happened in OTAs and it started bothering me again (in the Kansas City game),” Eifert said. “So we figured, let's get it right and get ready for the real deal other than trying to fight through preseason. It feels strong and feels 100 percent now.”