FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The past week has been a whirlwind of bad decisions and a second chance for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Last Friday, he was in the back of a police cruiser, arrested and charged with DUI. A few hours later, he was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Just three days later, the tight end was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets, who were willing to give Seferian-Jenkins a chance at redemption.
“You know, what’s in the past is in the past,” Seferian-Jenkins said after his first practice with the Jets on Thursday — his 24th birthday. “I’m just thankful for this opportunity. There’s an agreement here and an understanding of what’s expected of me. … I’m going to take full advantage of it and really approach it as hard as I can and go as hard as I can with it.”
He wouldn’t discuss any details of his arrest or whether he has an alcohol problem, citing legal and personal matters, respectively. But he acknowledged being cut by the Buccaneers after his latest legal issue was a wakeup call.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have a new home already,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Like I said, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And one he knows he is lucky to have. He used the word ‘thankful’ 12 times and ‘opportunity’ at least 17 times while meeting with reporters in front of his Jets locker, which still didn’t have his name or number affixed.
“I have to hold up my end of the bargain and do what’s expected of me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Seferian-Jenkins was charged last Friday in Florida with DUI and violation of an ignition interlock device restriction from an arrest in Washington while he was in college in 2013.
The Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release that Seferian-Jenkins was driving between 75 and 80 mph on Interstate 275 when his vehicle cut in front of a trooper’s cruiser and weaved back and forth. Seferian-Jenkins refused a breath test at the Hillsborough County Jail and was released by the Buccaneers later that day.
A video posted by TMZ showed dash cam footage from the trooper’s cruiser of the arrest, during which Seferian-Jenkins repeatedly told the officer he had to use the bathroom.
“Yes, we sat down and we talked about it,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We have a clear understanding of what I expect and he has a clear understanding of what he’s going to get from me and the rest of the team, so we’ll just go from there.”
The tight end was also told to leave Buccaneers practice during the summer for, according to coach Dirk Koetter, “not knowing what he was doing.”
Bowles didn’t offer much when asked what his impressions were of Seferian-Jenkins when the two sat down at the team facility Wednesday.
“Of course anybody coming in is going to say all the right things, but your actions speak louder than your words,” Bowles said. “He has a clean slate with us. Going forward, we’ll see what he does.”
Bowles wouldn’t speculate whether the two DUI incidents were isolated issues or a recurring problem for Seferian-Jenkins. The coach was also asked if Seferian-Jenkins seemed remorseful for his actions.
“You’re remorseful with your parents,” Bowles said. “He doesn’t have to say anything to me other than he’s ready to play. We did our homework going in, so we’re not going to sit here and rehash anything. We’re just going to give him a chance to play and do the right thing and see if he does it.”
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall reached out to Seferian-Jenkins before he was cut by the Buccaneers, and told reporters after a charity event this week that the move by the Jets “is God sent,” adding that “guys need second chances.”
Marshall, who has dealt with his own off-field issues over the years, has quickly established himself as someone Seferian-Jenkins can lean on as he begins his tenure with the Jets.
“He’s definitely helped me out a lot and given me all the resources that I need in the city to get the help that I need and get the support that I need,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m really appreciative of that and very thankful that he reached out to me. It means a lot to me.”
Seferian-Jenkins was a second-round pick out of Washington in 2014 and has 45 career catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns, including two this season.
At 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, he could provide the Jets with a big target in the red zone, an area they have struggled a bit this season. They’ve got just six touchdowns in 16 trips in the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“I’ve had one day on the practice field with him, but he’s a good-looking, young player,” offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “I think we’ll evaluate as time goes on, but he looks like a guy that is going to eventually play and have a role on our football team in some way, shape or form. What that is? Time tells.”
It was uncertain whether Seferian-Jenkins would be up to speed with the Jets’ playbook in time to play Sunday against Seattle.
“We’ll see how much he can gather mentally,” Bowles said.