For the past eight months he's been forced to watch his teammates play football. Forced to deal with chronic digestive tract problems as a result of his undisclosed illness that cost him the last five games of the 2015 season and his starting job, Seantrel Henderson finally returned to the practice field Monday. For the third-year offensive tackle it was welcome first step.
"It felt awesome. I've been out for about eight months now," said Henderson. "It felt good though to be back out there with my teammates and getting back in a groove."
Henderson lined up at his familiar right tackle position in Monday's practice and was welcomed back by his linemates and his coaches.
"I think that's a great thing," said head coach Rex Ryan. "You know, you see how much a guy wants it. Obviously you've got a major adversity in front of you, but there's only one way to do it and he's got to be the guy that does it. So you know, it's great to see."
"He's had to show a lot of determination and perseverance to get back to where he is at," said Richie Incognito. "He dealt with a major injury and obviously a hard road to get back so it's good to see him back out there."
Henderson said heading into Monday's practice it felt a lot like his first NFL regular season game.
"I was nervous because I had been out for so long, but other than that it felt good," he said. "It felt great to be back out here with the coaches and the guys."
Eight months earlier when his medical condition forced him to be hospitalized in Philadelphia prior to Buffalo's Week 14 game against the Eagles, there was genuine doubt about whether his career would be over before it really began.
"Early on I had some of those doubts," said Henderson. "I didn't know exactly what the future had in store for me. I just kept doing everything that the doctors said. Eating right and just kept moving forward and getting back ready to get back on the field."
After the 2015 season came to a close surgery was performed to help rectify the digestive issues. Henderson had lost a lot of weight. It would be a long road back if and when the digestive problems were brought under control.
The lineman got a nutritionist to avoid the foods that literally put his stomach and digestive tract in a bind. Henderson saw progress. Weight was steadily added back to his frame and Henderson began working out.
"It's not a big change. I altered my diet over six months," he said. "I think it's just sticking with the things that the nutritionist tells me to eat and as long as I do that and stay away from the stuff I know I'm supposed to stay away from I'll be fine."
Henderson said he just needs to add about five to 10 more pounds to his 6-7 frame to get back to his original playing weight of 331 pounds. And though his first practice is just the beginning, the journey to this point was significant for the offensive tackle.
"It's very satisfying," he said. "I went through a lot during the offseason. Just complications with my stomach and things I've never been through before. Just being back out here with the guys, with the team and to be able to do everything everybody else gets to do is just a blessing."
That's why he's not concerned with the starting right tackle job that was inherited by Jordan Mills after Henderson's medical problems forced him from the field.
"As of right now I've been out for a while. It's all about competing right now," Henderson said. "I have to compete coming in every year. I've done it the past two years. I'm doing it here right now. Whatever the outcome is that's what the outcome is. Of course I would love to start. Jordan has the job right now and that's my teammate and I wish the best for him and I know he wishes the best for me."
In light of what Henderson has been through and the time he's been off the field, it's unrealistic to think that with two and a half weeks before the season opener that he could suddenly reclaim the starting right tackle job.
"It's probably unfair to lay an expectation on him," said Ryan. "Let's let him get through some of these things, and then maybe we'll have a better idea, but obviously it's been a long time since he's been out. I think we're all excited to see him work, and really happy for him."
"Anybody away from football that long, you're going to be rusty. His effort was high (Monday)," said Eric Wood. "It's always high. He's a hard worker and he'll find his way back. Was it a perfect night? No, but he's a big dude and he can still move and a lot of exciting things will be coming from him."