Seantrel Henderson is on track to return to the Buffalo Bills and compete for a starting spot after all.
No, head coach Rex Ryan hasn't spoken to his right tackle, but Henderson will be back at One Bills Drive this week and is cleared to practice after two off-season surgeries. Shortly after our story on Henderson's whereabouts was published, agent Alan Herman returned The News' message to assure Henderson is indeed ready to roll.
After missing the final five games of last season through a brutal bout with Crohn's disease, Henderson underwent two surgeries to remove all infected areas and reattach his intestines. The most recent surgery was about a month ago. The Bills' medical staff, Herman assured, does know that Henderson has been recovering in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic and that it's been the tackle's plan to report back to Buffalo June 1 all along.
Henderson's physician will give him one final look Wednesday, so he's now targeting a Thursday return to Buffalo if his health checks out.
For whatever reason, there simply hasn't been communication between Rex Ryan and his client. Hence, Ryan's ominous comments last week that he hasn't spoken to the tackle since the 2015 season ended.
Last season was a rough one for the 6 foot 7, 331-pounder.
He endured stinging stomach pains and, Herman said, it can take a while for Crohn's disease's symptoms to surface. Henderson lost 20 pounds in all and was even hospitalized in Philadelphia when the Bills lost to the Eagles.
"It has to be treated properly," Herman said. "He had the surgery and had to wear a bag for a number of months after that, which is no walk in the park. And he stayed close to Minnesota to make sure he was getting the right kind of treatment. Then, they basically took the bag out about a month ago. Everything is OK now to the point where once he had the second surgery and was in the hospital for three days, he's been cleared to do whatever he wants."
Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which runs from a person's mouth to his anus. Symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss and diarrhea. IBD, which also includes ulcerative colitis, affects up to 1.6 million Americans. Crohn's disease can only be treated, not cured. Surgery helps preserve portions of the GI tract.
While it's true that Ryan never heard from Henderson, Henderson also never heard from Ryan through his surgeries. Herman called this "unusual." Some Bills players have been in touch with the tackle, he said, but not the coaching staff.
"When a guy's wearing a bag and he's going through the process of healing," Herman said, "clearly if any of his coaches called he would've returned the phone call. But to this day, nobody has called him."
So now, Henderson fights to keep his starting spot at right tackle. He'll compete with veteran Jordan Mills and 2014 second-rounder Cyrus Kouandjio. Mills appears to have the inside track on the No. 1 job after lining up with the starters last week. He previously started 29 games in two seasons under Aaron Kromer when the Bills' offensive line coach was in Chicago.
Last week, Henderson received the green light to return. The second surgery, reattaching his intestines, required recovery time.
"Now, he's cleared to do whatever he wants to do," Herman said. "When you have a surgical procedure, you're not going to go on the field and run around. ... If I was in Seantrel's situation, like most people, I don't think you're in the mood to talk when you're going through all these medical things. But he's OK now.
"It's clear the team hasn't been sharing that information with anybody."
Herman is optimistic. He recently spoke to a top specialist in the Crohn's disease field who said that Henderson is "good to go" and "this should not impact his career whatsoever."
Time will tell how Henderson is able to manage any potential pain. A mountain of a right tackle, the former seventh-round pick hopes to regain his strength and provide stability at the only offensive line spot up for grabs. Henderson certainly exceeded expectations as a rookie, leading all NFL players in performance-based pay after playing 1,132 snaps. But through the pain last season, he struggled for stretches. The 24-10 loss to the New York Giants was especially rough.
"Hopefully this will be smooth sailings for him in terms of him being able to play without pain, without stomach distress which he was going through all of last year and obviously prior to that," Herman said. "Nobody really knew what he had. Once it was diagnosed properly and he had the surgery, he should be OK now. All of the infected areas have been taken out, which we were told was the case. He should be able to resume a normal career and play pain-free."
The Bills could just use better off-season communication. Herman said no coaches have contacted Henderson since he was placed on injured reserve.
To him, if anybody disappeared, it's the Bills. Not Henderson.
Either way, he's back.
"He's ready to go," Herman said. "He'll be ready to go into training camp and compete for the job."