CULVER CITY, Calif. — Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving earlier this month, will rejoin the team at the start of fall camp on Aug. 5, coach Steve Sarkisian said Friday at Pac-12 media day.
Sarkisian, however, said he has not come to a final decision on potential punishments for Seferian-Jenkins, an All-American candidate.
Sarkisian didn’t rule out the possibility of some sort of suspension, and admitted he has wrestled with a decision about discipline for Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams, who was arrested in May in Chelan County for suspicion of DUI. Williams ultimately paid a fine for a misdemeanor citation.
After his March arrest, Seferian-Jenkins was suspended from team activities during spring practices. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail, 363 of which were suspended. According to court records, he served his one day in an Issaquah jail on July 15-16.
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“When guys make mistakes, I take it hard. I take it personally because I feel invested in them,” Sarkisian said, adding: “I don’t want to overreact to anything because it’s not fair to them. … It’s hard. It’s hard. It kind of wears on me, but I want to make sure the message is clear to our team, that they understand the standard that they’re held to, that we’re all held to, so that we can all be better for the experience. We need to be able to learn from one another. …
“I look, every time any incident we have with our kids, who really benefits from punishment and how severe that punishment is. That’s always the hard part when you’re in this situation as a head coach and you’re making those decisions. That’s why I always say I look at every incident separately and I look at every individual separately.”
Without going into specifics, Sarkisian said he laid out certain “requirements” for Seferian-Jenkins to fulfill this offseason, both with the team and in the community.
“He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done to get back in the good graces with our team and move forward,” Sarkisian said.
The junior tight end “has been tremendous throughout this entire process,” Sarkisian said. “He’s handled himself like I knew he would. He’s a great kid who made a mistake. It’s unfortunate. He feels horrible about it. …
“I can tell you today that everything he’s done up to this point has been above and beyond what we’ve asked of him. The punitive side of it has been finalized from a legal standpoint, and now my job is to continue to develop a young man who I treat like a son.”
Targeting rule under scrutiny
The NCAA’s new “targeting” rule was a hot topic Friday, with Washington State coach Mike Leach saying the rule will be a “gigantic issue” for game officials to try to enforce.
Under the new rule, players can be ejected for hits to another player’s head.
“I’m not the only one against the rule,” Leach said. “ … If somebody is running at you and you’re going to button up to take the hit, and then it becomes a guessing game (for the referee) of who lowered their head first.”
UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr said it will be difficult for him to adjust to the rule.
“I’m going to play within the rules that I’ve always played and play like I’ve always played — full speed and attacking,” Barr said. “If I get penalized because of it, then so be it, but I’m going to play the way I play football.”
Contact limitations proposed
The Pac-12 announced a proposal for limitations on football contact in practice, rules more stringent than those of the NCAA and expected to be adopted by athletic directors in August and in place in 2013.
Coaches were consulted for the regulations and appeared unanimous in their support of them at the conference’s media day Friday. Included are a cap of two full-contact practices per week during the regular season, a limitation of one full-contact workout on each two-a-day practice in fall camp, and a maximum of two contact practices a week in the spring.
“They don’t affect us too much,” said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. “I think it’s a positive thing for the Pac-12 to step up and take the initiative on this, because it’s important. I have a son who’s 8 years old and getting ready to play tackle football this year for the first time.
“I don’t think it’s always about educating the NFL coaches and players or college coaches and players, but it’s all the way down to the youth level, and they can use us as an example.”
The regulations are part of the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health Initiative the league announced late this spring, primarily in response to concern about concussions.