FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Austin Seferian-Jenkins saw his life going one of two ways, and for that reason alone, he made a change. Actually, several.
The Jets tight end lost 33 pounds during the offseason, rededicated his focus and energy to being a consummate professional and committed himself to being the best teammate he could be. More importantly, he adopted a new mindset, one that altered his personal life for the better.
“It really didn’t have anything to do with football,” he said after Sunday’s practice. “As a person, there comes a certain time when your life can go one direction or another. And I felt it going in a direction I didn’t want it to go. I figured out what I needed to do, made a plan and stuck to it.”
Seferian-Jenkins, 24, will serve a two-game suspension to start the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The league-issued punishment stems from his September 2016 arrest for driving under the influence — his second in a three-year span — while playing for Tampa Bay. Three days after he was released by the Bucs, the Jets claimed him off waivers.
“I wasn’t doing the right things,” he said. “I wasn’t preparing like a pro should prepare. And I am now, so I feel confident.”
Seferian-Jenkins didn’t make much of an impact last season — he caught 10 passes for 110 yards with no touchdowns in seven games while playing in a Chan Gailey offense that seldom used the tight end position. Now he is eager to showcase the new-and-improved version of himself in John Morton’s system, to “finish every single rep as hard as I can” and to “push the guy across from me” to do the same.
Although he’s now in his fourth NFL season, he’s treating 2017 like his rookie year — going so far as to “get my ankles taped where the rookies get it taped” and “get in the ice bath where the rookies get in the ice bath.”
He’s distancing himself from the person he once was, but those embarrassing and difficult moments aren’t far from his mind. “You forget about the past, but you remember the lessons in the past,” he said. “I’m cherishing the opportunity. Am I perfect? No. Am I going to make every play? No. But I’m going to hustle.”
And now that he’s happy in his own skin, football is coming easier, too. That, he said, is a credit to the Jets.
“They cared about me as a person and my overall well-being was extremely important to them,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “And that meant a lot to me. I needed the support, I got that support and it helped out a lot.”