Austin Seferian-Jenkins won't let 'fumble' ruin his year of redemption

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Everybody saw the fumble -- or the touchdown, as it should've been called -- but what you didn't see was how Austin Seferian-Jenkins handled the disappointment after the New York Jets' loss. There were no bobbles.

The big tight end faced a throng of reporters in the locker room, telling everyone he let his team down. He didn't blame the officials, only himself. Someone wondered about the range of emotions. He smiled.

"You score a touchdown and they take it away from you," he said. "I've been through way more emotional things in life than that."

Seferian-Jenkins is one of the best stories in the Jets' unlikely 3-3 start. After nearly destroying his career last fall with a DUI arrest while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he got a second chance with the Jets. He checked into rehab after last season, gave up drinking and dropped 32 pounds. He talks openly about his battle, embracing the challenge and sobriety.

And now he's one of their best players.

In Sunday's 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots, Seferian-Jenkins caught a career-high eight passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. His previous career high for catches was six, set last week.

Even though he missed the first two games due to an substance-abuse suspension, stemming from the Tampa arrest, Seferian-Jenkins has 23 receptions, second on the team to Jermaine Kearse's 26.

Let's say that again: The Jets have a tight end who has 23 catches. This is the same team that used to treat their tight ends like kids in a crowded house during the holidays. They stuck them at the kids' table, away from the grown ups and all the action.

That the Jets had a tight end involved in such a key play was major news.

In a way, Seferian-Jenkins is emblematic of the Jets -- once discarded, now rejuvenated. His presence in the middle of the field gives them a balanced passing attack, for a change.

"Honestly, this just sucks for Austin because he had a good game," teammate Jeremy Kerley said after the crushing loss. "I would hate it if this is on his conscience because he did ball out. To us, everybody in here, we give him credit for what he did. It was a hell of a catch. Nobody will give him credit for dragging three or four people in the end zone or whatever it was."

With the Jets trailing, 24-14, in the fourth quarter, Seferian-Jenkins caught a short flare route at the 5-yard line, turned toward the end zone and dragged safety Duron Harmon and cornerback Malcolm Butler to the pylon. He bobbled the ball, but regained possession for a touchdown -- or so it seemed.

Somehow, the referee -- with help from the NFL office -- determined in a replay review that he fumbled. They ruled it a touchback, a major momentum swing in the game. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called it "an interesting play," but he said Butler told him it was a fumble. Referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter it was a "pretty obvious" call.


Technically, it goes on Seferian-Jenkins' record as a fumble. He thought he scored, but he didn't make a stink about it. Instead, he said he needed to work on his ball security.

"I don't think it does anything for me to come up here and blast the official or blast the rule," he said.

Seferian-Jenkins did his job. If only the officials had done theirs.