After a lengthy absence from practicing at training camp, Teven Jenkins suited up at Bears camp on Saturday.
But it doesn’t look or sound like he did much on Day 1:
It’s the first practice for a player whose first season was shortened due to injury. So I won’t judge too harshly for a light workload in his return. Moreover, it is a good feeling to see even Jenkins participating in something as minor as some individual drills. But I almost feel as if that’s where the positive vibes come to an end.
Jenkins spoke with the media at Halas Hall after practice. And in doing so, he gave his first comments since his mysterious absence from camp began. However, as was the case when it came to Jenkins not doing much on the practice field, he wasn’t up for answering many questions at practice. His commentary felt like stock standard answers, which doesn’t bother me. However, as Brendan Sugrue pointed out, it felt far different from the last time we heard Jenkins answer questions. Because in addition to discussing barbecue and his newfound Pilates regimen back in May, Jenkins gave more fulfilling answers when asked similar questions.
These stood out to me.
On the Back Injury
When Jenkins was asked what kept him out, he replied: “I don’t want to disclose that right now.” Although, he did chime in to say he was working in the training room “trying to get better health-wise.” So maybe the Bears weren’t being totally dishonest when saying Jenkins’ absence was “100 percent” injury related.
You might recall a back injury keeping Jenkins off the practice field this time last year. But when asked if that kept him out of sight this summer, Jenkins responded with a familiar refrain: “I’m not going to disclose that right now.”
Fair enough. Remember, Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus was citing competitive advantages as to why he was being evasive in answering questions about player injuries. And that has me thinking that players (specifically, Jenkins in this case) are being asked to do the same.
Here’s what he had to say back in May while discussing his health:
“I have no thought about my back. I trust everything that goes into it. Especially the pilates part making your core strong. As soon as you have your core strong, all that takes away from any back pain you would have. So I’m not worried about the back at all right now.
Moving to Right Tackle
A healthy Jenkins has an uphill battle to climb in terms of winning a starting spot. Because now, the right tackle competition includes 2021 fifth-round pick Larry Borom *AND* veteran free agent addition Riley Reiff. But for what it’s worth, Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy told reporters Jenkins would be in the mix for a starting spot when healthy. So it made sense when a reporter was asking if Jenkins believed he has a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job. That end, Jenkins replied: “I believe so.” And when answering a follow-up question about why he believes that, Jenkins said: “Belief in myself.”
Back in May, Jenkins was asked about moving to right tackle. His reply: “It feels good. It’s where I played mostly in college. It is comfortable, it is right. I do look forward to keep getting this reps at right tackle.” And when trying to gain clarity about the situation, Jenkins answered a question about his role at right tackle moving forward by saying: “From my understanding, right now it is.” And later would chime in with “I’ll play wherever they need me. Get in where you fit in.”
Jenkins still rattled off the sentiment of being willing to play wherever for the team. But going from having an understanding from conversations with coaches that you’ll be starting at right tackle to self-belief as the reason you think you’ll be in the mix for a starting spot feels like a subtle difference.
Jenkins said there was no animosity between him and his coaches when speaking to reporters on Saturday. And referred to not believing everything you hear when talking around trade rumors. These feel like important distinctions to make at this time of uncertainty. Jenkins also made it a point to say he was loyal to making it work with the Bears, as that is the team that drafted him (even though the coach and GM who brought him in are both gone).
Back in May, Jenkins talked about building trust as he tried to make a good impression on a new regime. And that stuck with me in dissecting his commentary today.
This is the May quote:
“For me, it’s about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still. I’m working for that trust. That’s ultimately what I’m doing. Putting more of that trust they they have into me, will make me feel more comfortable and I’ll start playing like more comfortable I guess. Ultimately, the answer to that is that I’m working for that trust.”
In the end, I feel as if the Bears and Jenkins have work to do in patching up their relationship. Maybe the end game won’t be Jenkins making it happen with the Bears. But before they can go about trading him, it’s clear there is a long way to go in terms of fully getting back in the saddle.
For more, you can watch videos from May: