The 2015 second-round draft pick had surgery Nov. 18 to correct an irregular heartbeat and has slowly been working his way back to the field.
After being limited throughout the team’s voluntary workouts this offseason, Fisher was full-go Tuesday with the start of mandatory minicamp and participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since last fall. His return to practice Wednesday indicates he remains on track.
“I was able to get out there and put my best foot forward and just keep getting better and knock some rust off,” Fisher said after practice. “I’ve been trying to get back, so it’s been a process, but you’ve got to understand and trust your trainers, your coaches and what they decide for you. Ultimately, it’s not necessarily up to me what I want to do. There’s a plan and I’ve got to stick to it.”
Fisher had been medically cleared for workouts in late February, but has continued to monitor his heart rate and still will get checked every few months.
He came into minicamp without too many expectations, and it is going about as well as he can hope.
“I was a little rusty, but I knew that’s how it was going to be,” Fisher said. “I hadn’t played football since last November, so there’s going to be rust. You’ve just got to take it [for] what it is, understand what you’re doing wrong and fix it and get out there the next day and do it again.”
Fisher, who remains the leading candidate to start at right tackle, didn’t enjoy sitting out through portions of OTAs, but tried not to worry about when he would be cleared for full participation, he said.
He used the time on the sidelines to prepare mentally, as the Bengals are installing a new offense in Bill Lazor’s first full season as offensive coordinator. The offensive line has gone through changes as well under new position coach Frank Pollack, and Fisher had some time to help bring rookie center Billy Price – recovering from pectoral surgery after the NFL combine — along as the two sat out of drills together.
“It’s just kind of what can you do? How can you get better today?” Fisher said of being limited during voluntary workouts. “If you can’t do the 11-on-11, you do something else to get better mentally, physically and prepare for that next step.”
Fisher tries not to think about his heart.
It was understandably a scary situation last fall when he was sent to the hospital early in the season with his heart racing.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman had the same symptoms during a Nov. 5 game in Jacksonville and was again sent to the hospital. That was the last he would see the field, as the Bengals placed him on injured reserve a few days later to end his third season after just eight games. Two weeks later, he underwent a cardiac ablation procedure, which scars or destroys heart tissue that is allowing the incorrect electric signals and thus causing the irregular heartbeat.
“I don’t [think about it] to be honest with you,” Fisher said. “I mean, it’s in my past, and I’m looking ahead to what’s in the future, just trying to be the best player I can for this team. After that, you just keep working.”