CINCINNATI -- As Tyler Eifert tries to rebound from arguably the worst game of his young NFL career, he might be wise to lean this week on a lesson he learned from former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham.
"He came in here and we were always having fun," Eifert said, reflecting on his former teammate. "Good game, bad game, whatever, he always kept it light. Which, for me as a rookie, you're like, 'Oh my gosh. I'm in the NFL now, and this is so serious.' Meetings were so serious and long, and he always kept it light. It can be a grind, and it's good to keep that attitude throughout the year."
This, of all weeks, is a good time for Eifert to maintain that approach.
With a three-drop performance in Monday night's loss to the Texans, Eifert would like to prove his hands are better than that Sunday night when he faces Gresham's new team, the Arizona Cardinals. By keeping his approach loose and light, Eifert can keep doubt from creeping into his mind the way it did during the last game.
"You drop one, you try to forget about it and your mind ... every time the ball's coming to you after you're thinking: 'Don't drop it,'" Eifert said just after Monday's 10-6 loss.
Much of what has been said in the past 10 months about Gresham's controversial exit from Cincinnati revolved around the feathers he ruffled around these parts. His nonchalance when it came to deciding not to play through a couple of late-season injuries rankled some around the team and made it easy for him to receive a cold shoulder when free agency rolled around in March. Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said as late as last February that the franchise hadn't ruled out re-signing Gresham, the writing seemed to be on the wall.
Once the Bengals drafted two tight ends while Gresham rehabbed from springtime back surgery, there was no reason to believe he was coming back.
In July, the Cardinals signed him, thanks to a vote of confidence from quarterback Carson Palmer, another embattled ex-Bengal who played with Gresham in Cincinnati during Gresham's rookie season.
"He just kind of fell into our lap," Palmer said. "He didn't get to us until late and he wasn't fully healthy when he got to us so he missed out on so much time. But these last three, four, five games, he's really coming along and doing exactly what we expect.
"He's been a great addition for us."
Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was complimentary of Gresham's time with the Bengals.
"We ran the ball extremely well with him," Jackson said. "Everybody appreciated what he did here and everybody's glad to see him land on his feet and then get a great situation with a quarterback he knows and with a team that I'm sure he's very proud to be on. We're happy for him."
Without Gresham in the mix, Eifert -- who missed all but eight plays last season with shoulder and elbow injuries -- has emerged as a true offensive weapon for the Bengals. His 40 catches rank second on the team and his nine touchdown receptions pace the NFL.
"Me and Jermaine were pretty close when he was here," Eifert said. "He took care of me, kind of took me under his wing and sort of looked out for me. ... So I'm excited to see him."