Bucs' Austin Seferian-Jenkins eager to return, whenever that may be

Austin Seferian-Jenkins hopes to play this week, as he's been out since Week 2 with an injured shoulder. AP Photo/Jeff Haynes/Panini

TAMPA, Fla. -- It's too early to know if Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will return this week from a shoulder injury.

Still, he's hopeful his time as a Sunday spectator is almost over.

"I go into every week with optimism," Seferian-Jenkins said Wednesday. "After I hurt my shoulder, the first week I believed that I was going to play. So I always have great optimism. I'm excited about this week. I'm excited about preparing for the Giants."

Seferian-Jenkins hasn't played since catching two passes in a Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints. At the time of his injury, he led the Bucs with 139 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.

The Bucs (3-4) have been cautious with Seferian-Jenkins, who said it has been "really hard" to have patience while he recovers. He was a limited participant in all three practices last week, and he was limited again Wednesday.

"You've got to go back out there feeling that you can do what you did when you left," Seferian-Jenkins said. "So I don't want to go out there and not give my teammates what they deserve out of me when I'm out there on the field.

"It just sucks. But they've been doing a great job -- the offensive line has been doing a great job, the quarterback has been doing a great job, the tight ends have been doing a great job. Everyone has been pulling their weight and doing a great job, and that's why we have a couple [victories] here."

Time away from the field isn’t a new frustration for Seferian-Jenkins, who played just nine games last year because of ankle and back problems. In his absence this season, other players have emerged as targets for quarterback Jameis Winston, with the Bucs boasting six players who have at least 136 yards receiving.

"Every time you lose somebody, you get to see other people step up," Winston said.

"Having Austin back in the mix is important for our offense, because in the first game [against the Tennessee Titans], he led our offense in receiving, touchdowns. It's just good to have your weapons back."

Seferian-Jenkins' size -- he's 6-foot-5, 262 pounds -- will be a welcome addition to Tampa Bay's offense when he returns.

"He's going to be a great player in the league," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "I really believe that. To be able to add another dimension to our offense like him, we can't wait for it to happen. And we're getting closer to that happening.

"Every day, he has gotten better and better, which we expect. Whether he'll be ready this week or not, don't know that yet. ... We have seen progress daily from him, and I know he's feeling more and more confident coming back out on the football field."