Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is ready to help the Jets try to reach .500 against the Buccaneers on Sunday, but in his mind, he's already won.
"When someone gives up on you, they believe you won't get better and that you can't pull yourself out of whatever hole you're in," said Seferian-Jenkins, who will return to Tampa Bay for the first time since the Bucs released him last season. "To be here, standing here, competing at the level I am, that in itself is a win and says they were wrong."
The Bucs selected the Washington product in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he tallied 45 catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns in his three seasons in Central Florida. After he was charged with a DUI, they released Seferian-Jenkins three weeks into the 2016 regular season.
"I didn't hold up my end of the bargain," he said. "There's a certain personal conduct that you have to hold yourself to and a certain level of professionalism that you have to have.
"At the end of the day, I'm a Jet and that's the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life — to be here and within this organization. What's in the past is in the past. I wish things went differently, but deep down I don't because I'm happy I'm here and the way everything turned out."
The 6'5", 262-pounder reinvented himself both on and off the field this offseason. He lost 33 pounds and returned to the Jets not only a different player but a new man.
"I'm thankful I got the help that help put me on this path and I'm going to stay on this path. I have to give a lot of credit to [general manager] Mike Maccagnan, the upper management, owner, coaches and my teammates. Those people are instrumental in helping me change. Those guys were right there with me and didn't give up on me as a person and I think that's why I'm playing better than I ever have before.
"I'm going to continue to get better. I'm only 25. It's like a rookie year for me, I'm doing it all over again. The best is yet to come and I'm excited. I'm going to become the complete tight end."
Following a two-game suspension stemming from last year's charges, Seferian-Jenkins has racked up a team-high 33 receptions for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
One may imagine that this weekend's return trip to the place that symbolizes a dark time in Seferian-Jenkins' life may hit close to home. But for the "rook," it's business as usual.
"I was thinking about this the other day: Am I going to feel some type of way about it?" Seferian-Jenkins said regarding being back in Tampa Bay. "Will I want to do a little extra? But that's not me. I'm going to prepare the same way that I always do."
However, he did admit he's excited to line up against his former squad this weekend — but because of what it represents for his new team.
"It's a great opportunity to get to 5-5," he said. "They're a very talented squad on defense and offense. If we don't bring our A-game, they will get a win. It's a huge game for us and we're going to be very prepared. Their record is not indicative of how good that team is."
For an in-depth look at the TE's return to Tampa and offseason turnaround, check NYJets.com Friday and Jets Flight Plan on CBS 2 Sunday at 11:30am.