Jets' Austin Seferian-Jenkins sought help for drinking problem

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- An ordinary day for the New York Jets -- Day 4 of OTA practices -- was another winning day for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

His 129th day without alcohol.

In an interview with ESPN, the veteran tight end admitted Tuesday he sought help after the season for a drinking problem that led to a DUI arrest last September. Seferian-Jenkins said he stopped drinking Jan. 21 and attended rehab four times a week on an outpatient basis.

"Even since I stopped drinking, it's been a transformation," Seferian-Jenkins, 24, said. "It really has changed my life. I just try to win one day at a time. I've won 129 days and I'm going to continue to win however many more days. It's been a blessing."

The Jets took a chance on Seferian-Jenkins after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the arrest. An embarrassing police video surfaced in the aftermath, showing him making crude remarks in the back of the police cruiser. In March, he received a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy.

Seferian-Jenkins said he continued to drink during the season, allowing his weight to balloon to 285 pounds -- about 25 pounds about his listed playing weight. Finally, he decided to get help.

"Knowing you need help and you don't go get it, that's the worst thing," he said. "I was scared to get help. I was scared and embarrassed to tell people I have a problem."

Seferian-Jenkins said he wasn't a daily drinker, claiming he wasn't dependent on alcohol. During therapy, he came to the realization that he drank to cope with "dormant issues." He declined to elaborate on those issues.

"It's not like I was dependent on it; I was dependent on self-medicating myself so I could deal with s---," he said. "Once I figured out what was going on, I got help. I went to the doctor and figured everything out. "I've been straight. It's not like I'm f-----g dying. It's not like I craved it, wake up in the morning and I need a drink. It was just like, I'm having a tough time, I'm dealing with something, it's 6:30 p.m. and let's crack one back."

Seferian-Jenkins said he "graduated" last week from his outpatient program, receiving a commemorative coin. For several weeks, he spent 14 hours a week at a facility near the Jets' training complex. Now he plans to attend weekly sessions, knowing he also can speak with the Jets' in-house counselor.

"I give a lot of credit to the Jets' organization because they supported me when I told them I need to get help," he said. "They were the first people to say, 'We're so proud of you.' It wasn't embarrassing. They were like, 'This is great. This will be a great turning point in your life.'"

Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round pick of the Bucs in 2014, concluded that his drinking was preventing him from realizing his potential. In the offseason, he moved in with his agent, Brian Fettner, in Henderson, Nevada.

Temptation wasn't far -- Fettner's home is on a mountain, overlooking the Las Vegas strip -- but Seferian-Jenkins stuck to a strict diet and exercise regimen. Working with a personal trainer, he ate a lot of vegetables, drank two gallons of water a day, took two Pilates classes per day and ran hills.

He dropped 25 pounds, and it shows. Seferian-Jenkins, the most experienced tight end on the roster, has caught the attention of the coaches.

"He's running well," coach Todd Bowles said. "It's still early, but he's in a good groove right now."

Seferian-Jenkins believes he's a better person, no longer dreading those early-morning wake-up calls for practice. He will have to miss the first two games because of the suspension, but he said, "I'd rather have that -- the suspension -- than have myself be like the way I was."

His football goal, he said, is to repay the Jets for taking a chance on him at his low point.

"I want to be the guy the Jets brought in, the guy they see as a diamond in the rough, that they want to brush off and clean and show what he really can do," he said. "I'm brushing it away right now. I'm going to shine."
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