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The Bengals agreed to a one-year deal with often-injured
tight end Tyler Eifert and a three-year deal with punter Kevin Huber on
Thursday Todd
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, holding onto two of their unrestricted free agents.

Eifert has been hurt during much of his five-year career in Cincinnati. He
was sidelined for half of the 2016 season because of an ankle injury and a
problem with a disc in his back that required surgery. He aggravated his back
early last season and went on an injury list after two games.

”Couldn’t be happier to stay home in Cincinnati,” Eifert tweeted . ”The last
five years have been tough at times but every day I have been proud to be on the

The Bengals took Eifert with 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.

The Bengals finished last in the NFL in offense last season for the first
time in their history.

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 in 2016, making
29 catches for 394 yards and five touchdowns, but an injured back disc ended the
season and resulted in more surgery.

Huber has spent all 10 seasons with Cincinnati. He had 32 punts inside the
20-yard line last season, fourth in the NFL.

The elevator stopped at the 16th floor of the swanky hotel, and after a few
nervous steps down the hallway a soon-to-be professional athlete was ready to
face perhaps the most unpredictable part of the NBA draft process.

The interview.

Down in the lobby Mike
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, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka of the Los Angeles
Lakers chatted with familiar faces and pretended not to notice random fans
taking selfies with them in the background. Agents held court with other agents,
Clippers coach Doc Rivers talked with some journalists and a couple dozen people
were outside with their phones ready to snap pictures of whoever was walking in

But upstairs, high above the bustle and din of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile,
the real action was happening.

There were probably about 300 interviews conducted over two days in the Windy
City during the draft combine. Those chats – more than perhaps the basketball
that was played that week – give teams their best insight into a prospect and
help decision-makers determine which players will merit multi-million-dollar
investments at Thursday’s NBA draft. The Associated Press was granted access to
one of the sessions.

The 25-minute meeting was held in a room that had its usual furniture – bed,
television, dressers – cleared out for two couches and a table with eight

”Relax, man,” the coach said to the player, an early entry candidate, as he
sat down. ”We’re just trying to get to know you.”

Water was offered, and the chat began.

A couple of people were taking handwritten notes, the focus clear by the fact
that no one is checking their phones, and the interview was more of a
conversation than an interrogation. There was an order to things, with five team
staffers asking the bulk of the questions Shaq
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, each getting roughly the same amount of time to
play their respective role.

”What would your family tell us about you?”

”How many cellphones do you have?”

”Is this just about money?”

They asked the player what he thought of his teammates in college, how he
deals with teammates that he doesn’t like, how he reacts to criticism. One of
the interviewers has turned his chair around, another has his feet up on an
unused chair and there were even a couple moments of laughter. Almost out of
nowhere, there was a very specific question about a block-charge call the player
was involved in during a game this past season, and how he reacted to a referee
about the call not going his way.

The player slid down in his chair a little bit.

”How’d you even know about that?” he asked, sheepishly.

The time flies by, the interview wraps and the player was due in a few
minutes one floor down for another of his seven meetings scheduled throughout
the day. Everyone stands, handshakes happen all around, and just like that, it
was over. The notebooks close, and the player is walked to the door by the coach
who pats him on the back twice while saying ”you did great.”

The kid stepped into the hall, the door closed, and that was it.

Every team does interviews differently Henry
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, but for the most part the setup was the same –
cleared-out hotel room, about 30 minutes per session, somewhere between five to
10 people in the room to greet the player. By nightfall and the end of the day’s
meetings, everyone is exhausted. Michael Porter Jr., the Missouri player who
will be a lottery pick, couldn’t even remember how many teams he met with on Day

”It’s all on my phone,” he said, as he started running down the list.

There have been some famous, or infamous, stories of how draft combine
interviews have gone in recent years.

Many NFL hopefuls have said they’ve been asked about their sexuality; Jeff
Ireland, when he was the general manager of the Miami Dolphins, made headlines
in 2010 for asking Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. The Minnesota
Timberwolves have been asking players for a couple of years if they speed up or
slow down at yellow lights – it’s a question seeking insight not into their
traffic habits, but their ability to make split-second decisions.

The Detroit Pistons brought a virtual reality setup into their interviews
this year, much to the delight of players and something that will likely be
copied for years to come given how much of a hit it was. The draft hopefuls were
presented with about 12 scenarios when they had the VR headsets on Thurman
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, and were told to assess what to do in the various

And the Portland Trail Blazers went deep into psyches, with a sports
performance psychologist asking players a series of questions to determine their
personality traits.

”So accurate,” said Brian Bowen, who eventually removed himself from draft
consideration but will still seek a pro career since the NCAA isn’t granting the
former Louisville recruit eligibility at South Carolina for the 2018-19 season.
”It was crazy.”

Kevin Huerter, who is leaving Maryland after two seasons and could get
selected as early as the middle of the first round, said some teams – San
Antonio and Golden State in particular – were more in-depth than some other
clubs were with him during the combine interviews.

”Pick one moment in time that describes your personality,” Huerter said he
was asked during the Warriors meeting. ”I thought that was a really good

While one player said he was asked to participate in a staring contest, truly
bizarre tales seemed nonexistent.

”I don’t let it get there,” Miami’s Bruce Brown Jr. said. ”That’s just my
personality, to bring everybody Adidas
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