The last time Seantrel Henderson started a game for the Buffalo Bills, he was battling his weight, some stomach issues that they didn’t know what the cause was at the time, and his performance on the field was struggling as a result.
November 29, 2015 — the Bills’ road loss in Kansas City, and also Henderson’s last time he took part in a regular season game.
In December, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and it started a journey off the field that changed the right tackle’s life forever. He was hospitalized, lost nearly 50 pounds, had to have surgery to remove an unnervingly large portion of his intestines… and all the while, he still kept drive to play in the NFL.
Once he went through all the immediate medical attention he needed, Henderson has been battling Crohn’s disease with his diet, knowing that eating the wrong things could have him wind up back in the hospital — as big of a motivator as you’ll find. He’s even gotten his weight back up to 312-pounds, only a few away from his goal playing weight of the 320-to-325 range.
While he hasn’t been active for a game yet this season, he’s drawn the attention of the coaching staff — and namely, head coach Rex Ryan.
“Seantrel looked outstanding last week, so we’re going to give him an opportunity and we’ll see what happens with Seantrel,” the head coach said. “Well I’m encouraged right now (with) the way he practiced, especially last week. Like that was the guy that I remember, a special athlete. Hopefully he can continue that way, but I was really encouraged with how he looked last week.”
Couple that with how much Jordan Mills struggled on Monday Night Football against Seattle, and really over the last three games for the Bills, it creates a clear-as-day opportunity for Henderson to grab ahold of the starting job he won as a rookie.
And in a bit of a weird twist of fate, that might be the good that has come from finding out about his medical condition, and knowing how to control it for his playing career — or at least he seems to think so.
“Yeah, I actually do feel like that,” Henderson said. “I don’t have to worry about dropping any weight. I don’t have to worry about coming back overweight, anything like that, because I’m at where I want to be at physically. I think I’m stronger than I was before, you know what I’m saying, so I feel great.”
The right tackle position is thought to be one of the one’s that Rex Ryan was alluding to, when he declared that starting spots will have some competition for them in the coming week.
Henderson and the Bills will resume practice on Wednesday, and work through Friday as they prepare for Sunday’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joe B’s Take
Things are certainly trending in the right direction for Seantrel Henderson. This is the most encouraged — and quite frankly — the most open the Bills have talked about their former seventh-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft really since he had to leave the team after having been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
You can see a noticeable difference in Henderson. Just from the eye test, he looks lighter and more muscular. On the field on Monday, he looks a lot quicker off the snap than he did before he left. When you talk to him, he seems like a much more confident person and player.
If things continue to trend this way, and the former starting right tackle doesn’t have any setbacks, I think the Bills should give Henderson a shot in the game against Cincinnati. Whether it’s as the starter, or more in a rotational role, I don’t think it would hurt them to find out what they have with Henderson at this point.
Jordan Mills had a solid first six weeks of the season, but over the last three — and most noticeably on Monday Night Football against Cliff Avril and the Seattle Seahawks — he has played quite poorly. Mills is turning into the player that started in place of Henderson at the end of the 2015 season as opposed to the confident player we saw early on in 2016.
For how hard Henderson has battled back, and how comfortable he looks on the field even this week, he deserves the opportunity to earn his job back.
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