After suffering a rash of shoulder, neck and knee issues as a rookie in 2013, the Cincinnati Bengals tight end saw his sophomore campaign deep-sixed last autumn by a dislocated right elbow.
This year has been a different tale, with Eifert living up to his first-round status as a playmaking pass-catcher inside Cincy's weapons-rich air attack. He hasn't forgotten his critics, though.
"Oh, now I'm an iron man?" Eifert said this week after questions about his increased snap count, per ESPN.com's Coley Harvey. "It's just funny you would say that because I was 'injury prone' last year. Now I'm an iron man. But I'm just trying to take it one game at a time, stay healthy, help us win and good things will happen."
It customarily takes tight ends more than a season to acclimate to the NFL. Injuries can ravage the growth process. Eifert, though, has earned his keep this season by missing just 16 of his team's 382 snaps.
"I've taken a lot more reps than my rookie year, and last year, obviously. I can definitely feel it," Eifert said. "It's just kind of like being back in college and even high school where you're kind of hurting on Monday and even Tuesday. But when Wednesday rolls around, you're getting ready to go again. We do a good job here of making sure we're good and fresh for Sundays."
Along with Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu and Bucs running back Doug Martin, Eifert is another reminder of how drastically different players appear on film -- in terms of speed and explosiveness -- after finally getting healthy. We hear about the shattered bones and ripped up knees, but players regulalrly deal with a swath of hidden maladies that require an intense tolerance to pain. As a reward, they're flamed for a downturn in play.
Eifert has learned that nasty little process firsthand.