JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL has the advantage over other pro sports leagues during the COVID-19 pandemic in that the season isn’t scheduled to start until September. But the restrictions put in place by the NFL in response to the Coronavirus have made it impossible for players to be on the field together as a team.
One of the newest Jaguars, tight end Tyler Eifert, may have an edge over other free agents. He has experience with one of the Jaguars’ new coaches. When Eifert signed with the Jaguars earlier this offseason, he reunited with the teams’ new offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, whom Eifert played for in Cincinnati.
“We get along great. I have a good understanding for the offense that he runs and a good feel for it," Eifert said during a video conference with reporters Thursday. "I was in the same city for seven years, but we probably had four or five different offensive coordinators. Learning a new offense can be challenging at times. You feel like you are never going to get it.”
Even with his familiarity with Gruden’s offense, Eifert says he’s been using some of the same technology that a lot of us are using to learn about his new team, especially with no dates for on-field work set because of the pandemic.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done with all these virtual meetings and installing plays on FaceTime and Zoom," Eifert said. "I think the hard thing about is there’s so much uncertainty with your training. You try to stay in shape the best you can, but at the same time if we’re not going to report for OTAs and we have to be ready to go for camp, you don’t want to peak too early or be going too hard for too long.”
Of course, one of the big things Eifert needs to do is get comfortable with Gardner Minshew, a task made more difficult by the restrictions with practice and the geographic distance between the players. Using video conferencing and group texting, Eifert has stayed in touch with his new quarterback.
“He seems like a guy that the offense wants to rally behind," Eifert said. "He seems like he is kind of a fearless leader and you need that when you are on the field and the bullets are flying and things are not going your way. You need that kind of guy that is going to take charge of the huddle and be like, ‘We got this.’ I think it will be fun to see his growth from Year 1 to Year 2 and I’m excited to get to work with him.”
After agreeing to sign in Jacksonville, Eifert drove up from Delray Beach to take his physical and sign the contract. He also snuck in a round of golf at TPC Sawgrass. How did he do on the famed island green No. 17?
“I hit it in the water over the green," said Eifert. "My adrenaline was racing. They still had the grandstands up and everything. It was pretty cool.”
If Eifert can stay healthy, he could be an important weapon at tight end, something the Jaguars haven’t had for years.