The first day of minicamp marked a fresh start for Cincinnati Bengals tackle Jake Fisher, who was cleared to participate in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since a heart ailment ended his 2017 season in November.
“I was able to get out there and put my best foot forward and just keep getting better, knock some rust off,” Fisher said. “I’ve been trying to get back, so it’s been a process. But you’ve got to understand and trust your trainers and your coaches and what they decide for you. Ultimately it’s not just up to me, what I want to do. There’s a plan and you’ve got to stick to it.”
Fisher left the Nov. 5 game at Jacksonville with an irregular heartbeat and went to the hospital. The Bengals placed him on season-ending Injured Reserve a few days later, and Fisher underwent a cardiac ablation procedure, which scars or destroys tissue in the heart that is allowing the incorrect electric signals that cause abnormal heart rhythms.
He was medically cleared in February, but the Bengals have been bringing him along slowly during the voluntary offseason program, limiting his activity to position drills.
Tuesday he took his first live snaps at right tackle, the position where he started seven of the first eight games last year before the heart issue was diagnosed.
Asked to describe what it was like hearing there was an issue with his heart, Fisher politely declined.
“I really don’t (want to talk about it), to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s in my past. I’m working to what’s ahead in the future, just trying to be the best player I can for this team.”
While Fisher said he was happy to return to full participation this week, it wasn’t something he fixated on.
“I wasn’t really thinking like that beforehand,” he said. “It was just what can you do and how can you get better today. If you can’t do the 11 on 11, do something else to get better mentally, physically. Prepare for the next step.”
Fisher is the leading candidate to start at right tackle in the season opener at Indianapolis, but the Bengals signed former New York Giants tackle Bobby Hart in March. And Cedric Ogbuehi — who started 13 games at left tackle last year but has been displaced with the trade for Cordy Glenn — also could be in the mix at right tackle.
The Bengals drafted Ogbuehi in the first round in 2015 and Fisher in the second round, which means both players are entering the final year of their rookie contracts. And Hart signed a one-year deal. So this will be a key season for the trio as whichever player wins the job will be better positioned to hit free agency in March.
But Fisher isn’t worried about that at the moment. His biggest concern is shaking off the rust.
“I haven’t played football since last November, so there’s going to be rust,” he said. “You’ve just got to take it for what it is, understand what you’re doing wrong and fix it and go out there the next day and do it again.”