The good news is that Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is already making plans for next week's trip to London to play Washington after taking part in his busiest practice Thursday since the week of last January's wild Card Game.
He was still listed as limited for the second straight day and what could be bad news for the Bengals is that if he's lacking at least one full practice in nearly a year it may not be enough to get him ready for Sunday's against Cleveland (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) at Paul Brown Stadium.
But Eifert said after practice he feels like he can play after tweaking his back 17 days ago, when he was on the verge of returning from ankle surgery that shelved him for the first four games. Even if that's too soon for Sunday, he joked about the eight-hour flight to London, saying he hoped his injury would allow him one of those bed seats in first class, reserved for the team's most senior NFL players.
"Good, maybe even better than I expected it," Eifert said of how it felt after it was over. "That's encouraging for me just getting my confidence back. Being able to run around there and cut it loose, not think about my ankle, not think about my back."
Eifert said he ran around well on wet stadium field at Paul Brown Stadium in a practice that was interrupted briefly by a pouring rain. When the rain didn't let up the Bengals went back on the field to finish. Linebacker Vontaze Burifct, who injured his ankle and was carted off Wednesday, returned Thursday full go. So did left guard Clint Boling (shoulder) and defensive tackle Pat Sims (neck).
"I don't know if my experience will earn me a lay down bed but hopefully my back will," Eifert said. "I'm hoping for that.0 "I'm definitely getting closer and it just feels good to get back out there. I went back out Monday two weeks ago and then something else came up," Eifert said. "Just staying the course and staying positive doing everything I can to get better which is what I've been doing.
Eifert, who injured his ankle in the Jan. 31 Pro Bowl, was on course to return in Dallas Oc. 9 until he hurt his back running a route, extending his spate of absences to 24 games since the beginning of his second season with a dislocated elbow, separated shoulder, concussion, pinched nerve and now what he calls simply a "sore back."
"I've covered quite a few areas, so maybe that's a good thing," Eifert said with a laugh. "I have less chance of other things to cover. I don't know but I'm feeling good and moving forward.
"I didn't want to tell anybody that I kind of hurt my back because I got the ankle right and I was ready to play," Eifert said. "I tried to keep practicing and I couldn't do anything else. Like I said, I had to tell someone."
Eifert said he had back surgery on a disk when he was in college and while he wouldn't be specific about this injury he doesn't seem too concerned about it.
"It's something I dealt with and I've kind of been there before I guess so I wasn't as freaked out," Eifert said. "Any injury big or small, it's never fun but you move forward … In my mind I'm ready. Two weeks ago before it happened I was in really, really good shape and I've kind of been laid up just trying to get the back right. All things considered, I don't think there's anything else I have to pass."
Eifert said he didn't have time to think about the wet field and believes he could play Sunday without missing a beat.
"I think with the back I don't even think about my ankle. I can't think about two things at once," Eifert said. "It feels great. I don't even think about coming out of cuts. I'm just letting it go and playing fast … I feel good physically and mentally. I've been with this offense long enough to where I didn't just forget the plays not practicing. Obviously there are some things I need to brush up on because I haven't been in practice but I feel good about where I'm at."