This slipped through the cracks last Sunday, but it seems that Adam Schefter said on ESPN on Sunday morning that the Buccaneers expect Austin Seferian-Jenkins to return to play against the Indianapolis Colts this week.
"He's about one week away. They believe he'll be back next week," Rotoworld quotes Schefter as saying (h/t loyal commenter Macabee).
Of course, we should be skeptical of any claims of Seferian-Jenkins' imminent return. He's been limited in practice for weeks, and listed as questionable on the injury report for every game for nearly a month now, but he hasn't been able to play in any game. He was reportedly close to returning both of the past two games, but trainers still had not cleared him for contact as of Friday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Still, this is the first positive news we've heard out of really any outlet in weeks, and as close to a report saying he's ready to play as we've seen, so there's some reason for optimism. We know Seferian-Jenkins wants to play -- he just needs medical clearance to actually do so.
The second-year tight end put up seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the one-and-a-half games he played for the Bucs this year, and looked to be a big part of the offense until he injured his shoulder. He hasn't been on the field since week two, and the Bucs have consistently struggled to attack the middle of the field with him out -- though second-year undrafted free agent Cameron Brate stepped up this week with three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Not only should Seferian-Jenkins be a boost to the Bucs' passing game, he should also give Dirk Koetter more formational versatility. With the lack of tight ends who can both block and catch passes reliably, the Bucs have run a lot of six-linemen formations to help the running game and pass protection. Seferian-Jenkins' talent as a blocker (though he needs to work on his technique) should give the Bucs the ability to go to more two-tight end formations without necessarily sacrificing the ability to block people.