Austin Seferian-Jenkins played just six games last year, after suffering a shoulder injury in week two. The second-year tight end was held out of ten games with that injury, which frustrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans to no end. One new detail may alleviate some of that frustration: Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the injury he suffered is usually season-ending.
Seferian-Jenkins won't reveal the exact nature of the injury. It is believed to have been something that required surgery and would have put most players immediately on injured reserve.
Stroud wouldn't write this if he didn't have a very good reason to believe it to be true, but the lack of specificity makes it rather hard to verify. Regardless of whether or not it's true, though, it's obvious that the injury was serious and lingering: Seferian-Jenkins appeared to be close to returning for weeks on end, but team doctors kept him out week after week while he wanted to play.
The Bucs seem to have launched a bit of a PR effort to salvage Seferian-Jenkins' reputation with fans, many of whom seem to have a significant dislike for the tight end. As always, though, when fans start to loathe a certain player, it's very hard to change their minds, no matter how unfounded the reasons for said loathing. Injuries happen to every player and by and large cannot be controlled, and yet a lack of availability frustrates fans and sometimes seems to be taken as evidence of attitude or fitness, rather than a common occurrence -- especially when those injuries happen early in a player's career.
Coaches and general manager Jason Licht are taking turns to defend Seferian-Jenkins, emphasizing that availability is important, but not something he can necessarily control. Seferian-Jenkins, for his part, was emphatic that he really wants to get on the field.
"It's everything to me. This is my life," Seferian-Jenkins, told the Tampa Bay Times. "I love football so much. I've played this game since I was in second grade, and there's nothing more important to me than playing football. Fighting back and pushing through some serious injuries to be out there was all I cared about."
When he has gotten on the field, Seferian-Jenkins has been productive. He managed 21 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns in just nine games last season, with limited playing time in many of those games. He was by far the most productive tight end on the team, and is the Bucs' only tight end with real, explosive potential as a receiver. If he can stay healthy, he should be a massive part of the team's offense.