Tyler Eifert: back on the field.
Tyler Eifert, who said back in April he'd be ready to work this day, prepared for his first practice since post-season back surgery Thursday morning as the Bengals poised to take the field later in the afternoon for their first practice of training camp.
First-round pick John Ross also said he'll practice but as he continues to come back from the shoulder surgery that sidelined him for spring drills it's believed he's been cleared for only non-contact work. Ross, a wide receiver from Washington, says he's ready to run routes so the speed that set the NFL scouting combine 40-yard dash record is going to be on display for the first time.
It's also believed that running back Giovani Bernard is healthy enough to join them in the workout, a noble feat considering he tore his ACL Nov. 20. But it remains to be seen how much they let Bernard do early in camp. Just four players start camp on lists not practicing, including two classified just before that first practice, veteran running back Cedric Peerman and rookie wide receiver Monty Madaris. They can be activated as soon as they are cleared medically. Peerman the only regular out, is believed to have pulled a hamstring in Wednesday's conditioning test. Eifert smiled at the media throng ringing his locker as he patiently endured the barrage of questions he missed a few months ago and observed at one point, "You guys are really making up for all that lost time in the spring, huh? With all those questions."
Eifert undersdtands them better than anyone. After four seasons he's missed 27 of a possible 64 games and has never had a year he played every game. When healthy he's a major weapon and one of the most prolific tight ends in the game with Exhibit A his 13 touchdowns and 2015 Pro Bowl berth. But even before the back surgery, an ankle injury from that Pro Bowl cost him four of the eight games he missed last season. As he begins his contract year he was asked if he needs to show he can play all 16 in order to get paid.
"That's what everybody says," Eifert said. "I don't know. I'm going to play like I always have."
Ross indicated he's got a way to go but said it won't take him long to be 100 percent. He says he knows there are a lot of options but he's ready even if he won't call himself A.J. Green's No. 2 yet.
"With a guy like A.J. I feel if you're worried about that there's something wrong with you. You could possibly still be a No. 1 target because there's so much attention given to him," Ross said. "We've got so many great guys around, I feel like the ball is going around a lot. I think it's more so about all of us than just me. It would be wrong for me to come in and say I would like to be a Robin to Batman. I just want to play my role."