- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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First it was the recovery from hernia surgery.
Now it’s a broken hand.
Troy Niklas’ first offseason as a professional football player isn’t going so smooth. The Arizona Cardinals’ second-round pick in May’s draft has been on the field for just about a week of practice since reporting to the team in early May. While he’s been studying his playbook and watching film, learning from the sideline simply isn’t the same.
And it’s already causing the tight end to fall behind.
“I’d definitely be further along with the offense had I been out there practicing, and that’s what sucks,” Niklas said. “I’m just getting my head in my playbook trying to learn all the conceptual stuff.”
He's part of a tight end room that includes Jake Ballard, John Carlson and Rob Housler, all players with at least a few years of experience who'll be able to help guide Niklas once he's back on the field.
Niklas called his broken hand last week “one of those freak things.” He got it caught in another player’s jersey during the final week of organized team activities. After going his entire career without having surgery, Niklas has had two in the past six months.
The frustration of not being on the field for much-needed reps is starting to pile up. On Tuesday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Niklas will be ready for training camp.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said it’ll be important for Niklas to increase his workload once the Cardinals begin camp in late July.
“Anytime you miss time and you’re a young guy, and you can’t get on the field, obviously it’s not ideal but that’s the game,” Palmer said. “That’s this league and that’s any professional league. Being a young guy, you need reps. You got to kinda put it in overdrive once training camp gets here to catch up.”
Niklas has just one more practice to watch from the sidelines before the Cardinals go on a summer break. Palmer said he’ll catch up to speed with Niklas once he’s healthy at camp.
But, regardless, it hasn’t been easy for the Notre Dame product to deal with “just another bump in the road.”
“It’s not fun,” he said. “Could you imagine just watching someone interview people all day and not be able to do your job?”