Teven Jenkins and the Chicago Bears still wouldn’t reveal what injury kept the second-year offensive tackle out of seven training camp practices, but Jenkins did say he expects to be back to 100% in a couple of days after returning to the field Saturday morning.
Jenkins practiced in a limited capacity at a closed session at Halas Hall for the first time since July 27, doing some position-group work and standing on the sideline in uniform during team drills. He said he expects to get limited team reps Sunday as he ramps up to full participation.
“I’m not having any discomfort right now, so it’s really good,” Jenkins said. “If I had to give myself a percent, probably around 90%, and it’s just about working my body back into the feeling of football (being) back again.”
Jenkins’ absence was a big topic of conversation around Halas Hall over the last week after NFL Network reported Monday that the Bears were holding trade talks centered around the 2021 second-round pick.
Coach Matt Eberflus has a policy not to discuss day-to-day injuries. Without official word on Jenkins’ issue, speculation surrounded the situation, especially considering Jenkins was never spotted watching practice or working out to the side on exercise bikes as many injured players do.
Jenkins wouldn’t say whether he was injured in the first practice of camp July 27 — the only one in which he had appeared before Saturday — or whether the injury was related to previous back issues. But he said he has been “in the training room trying to get better, just health-wise.” Eberflus said Jenkins also has been attentive in meetings and walk-throughs as he works through his issue.
Jenkins kept most of his answers brief during an eight-minute media session after practice. He said the only person he spoke with about trade speculation was his agent, Joel Segal, but he declined to share details of that conversation.
Asked about dealing with trade rumors, he said, “It’s life. Life’s hard.”
Asked about whether he could use a fresh start with a new organization after the Bears’ recent staff changes, he said, “I’m a loyal type of guy. The Chicago Bears, they drafted me, so I’m going to stay with the Chicago Bears until whenever it is.”
Jenkins did, however, try to set the record straight on his relationship with Bears coaches after rumors of a disconnect surfaced this week.
On Tuesday, Jenkins replied to a tweet asking how he was by writing, “I’m good don’t believe everything you read.” He said Saturday that reply was in reference to a report he was clashing with coaches, which was “totally not true.”
“I love the coaches,” he said. “We have no animosity towards each other. We talk to each other every day.”
Where Jenkins fits on the offensive line upon his return is a big question.
The Bears have rotated players at both tackle positions, this week giving first-team reps to rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle and Riley Reiff and Larry Borom at right tackle. Reiff, a 10-year NFL veteran whom the Bears signed just before camp, also took reps at left tackle earlier in camp. Reiff was limited because of a veteran rest day Saturday, and Jones briefly left practice, but Eberflus said he should be fine.
With those three getting long looks already at the positions, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was asked Friday what’s in store for Jenkins.
“(Jenkins) is going to get thrown right into the mix of this competition at the tackles,” Getsy said. “We’re trying to find the best five, so when he gets back, he’s someone who’s super talented that should jump in there. And hopefully he takes advantage of the opportunities he’s going to get.”
Jenkins said he believes he has a chance to win a starting job and doesn’t think his style of play or body type is a detriment to his chances, citing similarities to how he played at Oklahoma State. General manager Ryan Poles, who inherited Jenkins from former GM Ryan Pace, said in March that he wanted a lighter, quicker offensive line than the Bears had in 2021.
“It’s not problematic,” Jenkins said. “In college, we did spread offense. I had to be 315-320 (pounds), and I was still around 20% body fat back there. The only thing we did was just run outside zone. So just coming here is just turning from last year to this year, I just had to cut a lot of weight again because it’s just kind of more up-tempo like I did in college. It’s just like going back to that speed and getting back to the demands of that instead of last year.”
Jenkins missed all of training camp in his rookie season with a back injury that eventually required surgery. He returned to appear in his first NFL game in December and played in six games with two starts.
So naturally Jenkins’ slow start to camp this year has been frustrating, and he said he talks with his fiancée as he deals with the situation.
“I talk to her night and day, whenever I can, and she helps me through a lot,” Jenkins said.
Eberflus said his message to Jenkins as he resumes activities is the same as it is to all players: “Go out there and compete. Everything’s open. Dive in.”
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