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Austin Seferian-Jenkins says he already has won against Bucs by turning life around with Jets

Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins celebrates a scoring a

Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins celebrates a scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots  at MetLife Stadium on Oct.15, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The story of Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ return from alcoholism has been well documented. But the fact that Tampa Bay gave up on him after his arrest last year for an alleged DUI still burns inside the 25-year old tight end.

The Buccaneers host the Jets on Sunday and it’s a homecoming for Seferian-Jenkins, a 2014 second-round pick, and quarterback Josh McCown.

Seferian-Jenkins’ time with the Bucs was met with disappointment and it bothers him how it ended.

“Personally, I love Lovie Smith, when he was there, he’s the guy that drafted me and I have very fond memories of Lovie,” Seferian-Jenkins said Wednesday. “Dirk Koetter is the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he’s coached them and it is what it is. I’m excited I’m a part of the New York Jets and that’s all I have to say about that.”

Seferian-Jenkins said he’s grateful the Jets signed him three days after he was arrested for a DUI last September.

Over that three-day period, the young tight end waited to clear waivers and sign with a team in addition to trying to solve his personal problems with alcohol.

“Honestly, at that time I was just worried about so much other stuff, I thought I was probably done,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff other than football going on in my mind at that time. I was lucky, surrounded by family and friends and they helped me get through it and I was lucky enough to get picked up by the Jets and lucky enough to come here and work and be able to make changes so I can still be a Jet and be a part of this great organization.

“Being in limbo for three days was pretty bad but there are guys who have sat out weeks, months, years and got back, also. I’m very fortunate. I understand how fortunate I am to have the opportunity the Jets gave me in three days.”

He played seven games before a hamstring injury ended his 2016 season. In the offseason, Seferian-Jenkins lost over 30 pounds to get ready for this season. And when he was ready, the NFL suspended him two games for violation of the personal conduct policy.

Since his return, Seferian-Jenkins has produced for the Jets as the starting tight end with 33 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns.

When he looks back on the last year, Seferian-Jenkins credits the Jets for being part of remolding his life on and off the field.

“I mean personally it was a tough time in my life, a dark time in my life,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I give myself credit for pulling myself out of it and making adjustments and changes and being where I am today.”

The tight end never said he’s bitter and isn’t trying to play with an edge just to beat the team that cut him.

“I understand I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” he said.

But there is a small part of him that wants to produce a good game against the Bucs.

“At the end of the day, being here, standing where I am playing at the level that I’m playing at, still getting better that in itself is a win on someone that gave up on you,” he said. “When someone gives up on you they believe you won’t get better, you cannot pull yourself out of whatever you’re going through, whatever hole you’re in.

“To be here, standing here competing at the level I am playing on such a great team, that in itself is a win. That in itself says they were wrong, that in itself speaks volumes to my character, that speaks volumes to this organization They can bring a guy in like myself and help mold me into what I am today.”

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