Bengals TE Tyler Eifert out for season with back injury
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert will miss the rest of the season with a back injury that has put his career in jeopardy.
The fifth-year veteran missed half of last season with ankle and back injuries. He had surgery on a disc in his back last December. He aggravated it in the second game this season, forcing him to consider another procedure. He's been inactive for the past three games and was put on injured reserve Thursday.
The Bengals (2-3) are on their bye week. They resume with a game at Pittsburgh (3-2) on Oct. 22.
The Bengals made him the 21st overall choice in the 2013 draft, hoping his pass receiving skills would upgrade their offense. He's been one of Andy Dalton's favorite targets, especially near the goal line, but has been severely limited by injuries in three of his five seasons.
Eifert caught 39 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie. The following year, he hurt his shoulder during training camp and dislocated an elbow in the opener, ending his season. He returned and had his best season in 2015, caching 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, a franchise record for a tight end.
He made the Pro Bowl that season and tore a ligament in his ankle during the game, requiring surgery. He returned and played in eight games, making 29 catches for 394 yards and five touchdowns, but an injured back disc ended the season and resulted in more surgery.
He played in the first two games this season and had four catches for 46 yards. He aggravated the back in the second game and came off the field. He wasn't able to practice and was inactive for the past three games.
Eifert's injury gives Tyler Kroft a chance for a bigger role. Kroft, a third-round pick in 2015, leads Bengals tight ends with 14 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns after five games.
Raiders-Chargers game may be affected by wildfires
The NFL is keeping an eye on the wildfires in Northern California and has been exploring options to move Sunday's game between the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers if it becomes necessary.
Michael Signora, the NFL's vice president of football communications, said Thursday that the league is getting updates on the situation from both teams and from city officials in Oakland.
"We continue to monitor air quality conditions in the Bay Area and are in close communication with both the Raiders and Chargers, as well as local authorities," Signora said. "At this point, the game remains scheduled for Sunday in Oakland."
At least 26 people have died and some 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blazes, which began in California wine country Sunday. An estimated 25,000 people have been driven from their homes.
Oakland, which is some 45 miles south of the fires, has been blanketed by smoke.
College football games in Berkeley and Stanford are also planned for this weekend, and officials from both schools are monitoring the situations there as well.
If the NFL decides that conditions in Oakland are too unhealthy to play Sunday, the Raiders game could be moved to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has also offered up Qualcomm Stadium, where the Chargers used to play before relocating to Los Angeles this year.
"It's up to them to make the final decision to either move us, prepare us to play here, or what not," Raiders cornerback TJ Carrie said. "But we have to continue to practice and play as if we're going to play here."
Carrie said the Raiders have advised players to be cautious with their time outside.
"Our strength team and some of the nutritionist people that we have, they've expressed to us on different masks that we can purchase and different things that we can do to just keep us healthy," Carrie said. "Staying indoors, little things that they feel like will make the most difference."
The fires aren't far from Napa, where the Raiders have held training camp since 1996, one year after late owner Al Davis moved the team back to Oakland from Los Angeles.
"It's scary for all the victims that one, we've lost, and then the victims who've lost their livelihood," Carrie said. "We're talking about homes, cars, memories, pictures. They've lost so much in this process and it's very devastating. As everyone within the community, we need to pull together for them."
The smoky conditions have forced the Raiders to alter their outdoor schedule this week. Practice times have been changed to limit the effect on the players.
"We've done our best to stay as in-routine as we can," offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. "Coach (Jack Del Rio) has done an awesome job of adjusting where he's needed to but we feel like we're putting together a good week of prep."
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