The Pro Bowl is supposed to be a fun occasion. The atmosphere is geared to honor a player’s accomplishments mixed with a little vacation time. Tyler Eifert may have been enjoying himself, but he also suffered an injury. Eifert left Aloha Stadium in a boot and is scheduled for further tests in Cincinnati.
The initial examination of Eifert’s foot showed no signs of serious damage. He’ll get a second opinion from Bengals foot specialist James Amis sometime this week. ESPN cameras caught trainers talking to Eifert on the sideline and putting a protective wrap on his foot.
Eifert had treated Nick Cosgray, the Bengals director of rehabilitation, to a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. It was a gift for helping him recover from his season-ending injury in 2014. The two may be spending more time together after suffering the foot injury.
The play that caused the injury was a simple route that Eifert has run many times. Going down the seam, Eifert attempted to grab a 35-yard pass from Jameis Winston. He couldn’t hold on to the ball as he was running out of the end zone. After trying to stretch out for the ball, his momentum caused him to land awkwardly. Eifert got up gingerly and walked to the sideline.
“I jammed my heel. I’ll be good.”
“I don’t really know what happened,” Eifert explained, per the Cincinnati Bengals site. “I jammed my heel. I’ll be good.”
Injuries are the biggest issue with the Pro Bowl. In a sport in which injury is more inevitable than avoidable, players attempting to dodge getting hurt leads to a lackluster product. Many times, players get hurt trying to avoid collisions.
The injury is especially concerning for Eifert, who earned a breakout, 13-touchdown season in 2015 after missing all but one game in 2014. He missed three games this season due to injury.
The Bengals are hoping there’s no major damage to their touchdown monster. Eifert dealt with a neck injury that forced him to miss Week 13. That came on the heels of a minor knee injury. Eifert was most recently forced to exit the Bengals’ Week 14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers after getting checked for a concussion. Eifert proceeded to miss Cincinnati’s next two games, including a crucial Week 16 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos.
The third-year tight end has been getting rave reviews and comparisons to Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Although he’s not gobbling up the yards, Eifert has been an effective weapon. According to Football Outsiders, Eifert’s overall performance was good enough to get him the No. 1 spot on their rankings for tight ends.
Eifert’s season was good enough to earn him his first trip to Honolulu. If he wasn’t attacked by the injury bug, his numbers may have been even better. His teammates noticed his ability and that was followed by national attention.
“Oh my gosh—that guy,” wide receiver A.J. Green said, earlier in the season. “Tyler is a wide receiver trapped in a big body because the way he runs routes and the way he’s getting in and out of his breaks is unbelievable.”
After the injury, Andrew Whitworth occasionally came over to talk with him on the bench. The whole week had been a celebration of Eifert’s ability to bounce back and overcome the setback he suffered in 2014. It was suddenly a moment of concern for the Bengals organization and his teammates who made the trip to Hawaii.
Regardless of the severity of the injury, it’s unlikely to keep him out of any meaningful action in the 2016 season. Hopefully, Eifert will have the same resolve with this current injury as the elbow incident. With a little rehab and time, he should bounce back quickly and be full go when OTAs start this spring.
[Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images]