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Marvin Lewis not ready to count out Eifert yet

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Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn't ready to count out tight end Tyler Eifert just yet.

The head coach told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday that Eifert's back is "sore" but that the team will "see where he is," and that Eifert still has a chance to play against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Eifert, who finally came back from an ankle injury he suffered this offseason in the Pro Bowl and was slated to make his return this week, suffered a setback in practice on Wednesday. The tight end also sat out of Thursday's practice.

Perhaps this is just a bit of gamesmanship from Lewis, who would like the Cowboys to at least devote a few minutes of their week to preparation for a Pro Bowl caliber tight end. Back injuries can be fickle, especially for one of the league's most difficult positions -- having Eifert back at half speed where he cannot block effectively is not the answer for anyone.

Cincinnati doesn't have much time to wait. Facing a good Cowboys team, they're watching the rest of the AFC North rack up wins around them. This could end up being the best division in football this season, and the Bengals don't want to wait another week for Andy Dalton to finally get reunited with his second-favorite passing option.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah is currently fifth on the team in receptions and third in targets. Last year, Eifert caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Obviously, Cincinnati would take Eifert back simply for red-zone snaps. The team is currently dead last in the NFL when it comes to red-zone efficiency -- a problem offensive coordinator Ken Zampese said is not exclusive to Eifert's absence.

"We've put ourselves in bad situations on our own," Zampese told ESPN.com. "Self-inflicted. Regardless of who we have in there, we're better than what we've shown and we'll be better as we go forward."

But really, Eifert was prolific inside the 10-yard line last year and helped re-shape the Bengals' offense. His rise was one of the reasons the team felt good about letting Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu depart in free agency. So forgive Lewis for being hopeful that his tight end will still play. He could certainly use him.

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