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As advertised


Tyler Eifert

On his first day as a Bengal on Friday, tight end Tyler Eifert lined up in more spots than a flip-flopping politician during a drip-dry rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium.

But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis approved this message as truth in advertising. The man who has spent 21 seasons in the AFC Central and North trying to defend those two-way threat tight ends that can catch and block, could barely contain himself at the end of the day.

"He's as advertised. What I was most impressed with is how he did a great job in the running game and the techniques he's being taught," Lewis said. "I know he can run and catch, and turn get-back shoulder plays and all those kinds of things that you have to do in tight spots in the NFL. I know he can do all that. But the other stuff was impressive today."

And as if to produce a character witness, the Bengals gave a tryout to Eifert's Notre Dame teammate and high school quarterback. John Goodman, a fellow Fort Wayne, Ind., native has known him since he was 12.

A year older, when Goodman was a freshman at Notre Dame he advised then-head coach Charlie Weis to check out his favorite target at Bishop Dwenger High School.

"Touchdowns," Goodman said after the first practice, when asked what Bengals fans can expect from his friend. "A player that can block and play the receiver position, too. I mean, not just like a slot guy. But like an outside receiver that can run a go. It's going to be hard to cover him. He utilized that in college. You saw. His actions spoke. He did well. I think he'll do the same in the NFL."

The Bengals think Eifert means touchdowns because he'll team with two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham to make offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's system more versatile. Gruden said last week that in order to make it work Eifert is going to have to block to keep teams from playing a pass defense whenever he's on the field.

The club truly won't know if Eifert can block the way it wants until the August preseason, but Lewis apparently saw enough Friday. His last year in Pittsburgh, the Steelers took tight end Mark Bruener in the first round of the 1995 draft. His last year in Baltimore, the Ravens took Todd Heap in the first round of the 2001 draft.

It sure sounds like he wants to stick around to see Eifert's second season after the Bengals took him with the 21st pick.

"His body position and everything," Lewis said of what impressed him in the run game Friday. "When I was there in Pittsburgh, they drafted Bruener. You looked at his body and how (he) looked like a linebacker, and had that kind of hips and flexibility like a defensive end. And later in Baltimore, we picked Todd Heap, and watching Todd as a young player, blocking well, even though Todd didn't come out of Arizona State with that kind of reputation."  

Neither does Eifert, but he certainly put those first-round hands on display. In the morning practice he caught a one-handed fade right in front of a smiling Andy Dalton standing in the PBS runway, and in the rainy afternoon practice he tipped a ball to himself and caught it as both knees hit the ground on a route over the middle.

The Bengals didn't hesitate in imitating how Notre Dame used him last year. He caught balls in both slots and from both in-line positions.

"Day One they already moved me around a lot. That was good. I think I picked it up better than I thought I would have at first," Eifert said. "It's not a whole lot, but it's definitely something new for me. I'm catching on pretty quickly and moving around quite a bit.

"The new part is just learning the plays, the verbiage, and what we call things here and just how things work, it's all different. … I'm used to lining up (all over), it's just knowing when to line up in different places and things like that."

Eifert not only fit like a glove on the field, but his minicamp was made to order when Goodman got the call the day after the draft for a tryout with the Bengals when they were golfing together at Glendarian in Fort Wayne. And, by the way, when they golf that's not exactly news. They've been doing it almost every day after working out in the morning.

And Goodman always turns his phone off when he plays. But when he got to the sixth hole, he realized a team may be calling and he saw the missed call from the Bengals.

The golf game was suspended for a minute or two for him to call back, after which Goodman said, "Ty, here we go again."

So they drove the three hours down here Thursday and Goodman agreed with an estimate of how many car rides they shared (1,000), and they ended up being roommates for Friday's 6 a.m. wakeup call.

Eifert and Goodman have been hand in glove for a long time. After a senior season the junior Eifert was his favorite receiver, Goodman became a receiver at Notre Dame. But he reminded Weis about his go-to guy in school.

"I told him, 'Coach Weis, you've got a great receiver tearing it up at Dwenger,' " Goodman said. " 'You should check him out,' and they checked him out. Coach Weis said, 'With that athletic ability, we need him.' I threw to him in high school and I knew what he could do. He was a true receiver back then. He's got the same speed, maybe a little faster. But since then he's put on 50 pounds."

Goodman may have an uphill climb to get a contract. But his future may be in scouting.

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