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Tyler Eifert off Bengals' concussion protocol, expects to play

CINCINNATI -- Tyler Eifert has come off the Cincinnati Bengals' concussion protocol and expects to play in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

Asked if there was a chance he might take this game off in order be fully ready for the playoffs, Eifert had a succinct response.

"No," he said. "I'm feeling good. I'm cleared and I'm ready to play."

The tight end had been under the protocol since Dec. 13, the day he was forced from the Bengals' most recent game against the Steelers following a hard, helmet-to-helmet blow from Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell. Mitchell was penalized for the hit and later fined for it.

Since that play, Eifert has missed the past two games. He made the trip to Denver on Monday night, but wasn't active for the 20-17 overtime loss.

"It hasn't been fun the last couple weeks, especially out there in Denver with everything that was on the line and the atmosphere," Eifert said. "It was tough not playing. But I'm good to go now, so that's all that matters."

Eifert was listed on Wednesday's injury report as a full practice participant. During the open portion of the low-speed workout that essentially amounted to a walk-through, he sporadically came in off the side to run a couple of routes. With a game just two days earlier, the Bengals weren't going at their usual high-tempo pace for a mid-week practice.

Eifert's absence coincided with that of starting quarterback Andy Dalton, who left the same Week 14 game with a broken thumb. Sidelined since then, Dalton has been an observer while backup AJ McCarron has led the offense. When Eifert returns, he'll be catching passes from McCarron for the first time this season.

"We had some reps way back, kind of in OTAs (organized team activities) last year," Eifert said. "We've had time together. I don't think I'll be playing catch-up at all, no."

This was the first time Eifert had been able to speak to reporters following his initial injury. He said he remembered the hit from Mitchell and didn't black out. He was "dazed," and "felt really kind of groggy and just kind of out of it," he said. Eifert finished out the opening drive, even catching another pass.

Before he was injured, Eifert led the league in receiving touchdowns with 12. He's now fifth on the list, behind Doug Baldwin and Allen Robinson (both have 14), among others. Eifert also was closing in on the Bengals' all-time record for single-season receiving touchdowns of 17, which was set in 1995 by Carl Pickens.

"It just bums me out that I've been hurt and not able to play," Eifert said. "All that stuff, we don't talk about it as individuals, but it's still cool. It's not like you don't realize it. Let's not be stupid. But at the same time, honestly, it's not really at the forefront of what you're thinking about."