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Jeff Cumberland is "Hungrier Than Ever" After Offseason Soul Searching
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All throughout last season, the media would ask Philip Rivers how hard it was adapting the offense after it continued to lose weapon after weapon.
They would list a long litany of players who were on IR, yet there was one name they seemed to always leave out.
Rivers was always quick to remind them.
“Don’t forget about Jeff Cumberland.”
The veteran tight end was brought in last year to play a major role alongside Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles suffered in the second preseason game cost him the entire year. Cumberland closes his eyes and can recall every detail from when he suffered his season-ending injury. In fact, it made him question whether he wanted to even continue his career.
“I knew it right away (that I tore it). I had it happen before so once I felt it, I already knew. I just thought, ‘No! Not again.’ Last year was supposed to be my big year. When it first happened I had to ask myself if I really still wanted to play football. I mean, I don’t know too many guys who have two torn Achilles – a right and a left. But then I thought to myself I am nowhere near where I should and could be. I’ve got a lot left in the tank. I’ve got a lot to (accomplish).”
Season ending injuries often leave emotional, mental scars in addition to any physical wound. Coming to terms that you will miss an entire year can be difficult to process, and that certainly was the case for Cumberland.
After re-signing with the Bolts last week, all it takes is one conversation to realize how motivated he is to make an impact in 2017.
“I’m hungrier than ever,” he said. “That was hard for me (last year) and really woke me up. It’s made me work a lot harder. My speed has always been there, but it helped me realize how much I need to take care of my body.”
It’s also clear Cumberland doesn’t lack in confidence.
“I’m expecting big things this year. I really am. I feel like I am an all-around tight end who can do pretty much anything. I can be a receiver. I can be a fullback. I can be an inline blocker. I can pass protect. I can do all of that. My biggest strength is my speed, so deep down the field and over the middle catching those balls that is what I am looking forward to.”
It also helps that he shares a long history with his new head coach. Anthony Lynn served as the New York Jets’ running backs coach when they signed Cumberland as an undrafted free agent in 2010, and has always been a fan of the tight end.
“He was our running backs coach there, and his room was right there next to ours. We used to talk a lot to each other. I remember when I was a rookie, he’d say, ‘Man, there has got to be something (wrong) with you. There is no way in hell teams let you go undrafted. There has to be some reason.’ So every day he’d tell me, ‘I don’t see it. I don’t see how you weren’t drafted, man!’” Read