Two weeks into his first professional training camp, Bears’ 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins has yet to practice. Not only has he not strapped on pads, he has not participated in even the most rudimentary of walkthroughs. To this point in Chicago’s lead-up to the 2021 season, Jenkins has missed 11 practices with a back injury suffered during May’s rookie camp that was apparently a mere minor hiccup. It was something that Jenkins was supposed to return from last Tuesday. It’s now a week later.
This begs an all-important question: What’s the deal?
The entire off-season post-draft has seen the Bears glow about Jenkins’ prowess. The 23-year-old developed a well-known propensity to maul defenders into turf. Chicago’s brass liked him so much that they anointed him the team’s new starting left tackle almost immediately, despite six total starts at left tackle in college at Oklahoma State. Now with little over a month before the Bears travel to play Aaron Donald’s Rams in the season opener on September 12, their proposed anchor has yet to compete—at a new position he has minimal experience in—against live professional competition. And for a squad with an already precarious offensive line situation, Jenkins’ status looms large.
When asked for an update on Jenkins’ back last week, head coach Matt Nagy offered little transparency.
“Honestly I don’t know,” Nagy said. “All I can say is I feel like the arrow is—Every day it’s getting a little bit, better. It’s not going the other way.”
That’s hardly a reassuring stance for someone Chicago invested two Day 2 draft picks in to select, and who they supposedly envision as the long-term blind-side protector for their new talisman under center. Yes, there is still time for Jenkins to slot in and attain necessary experience for his first year at the highest level of football. Provided he’s healthy and prepared for the regular season, there’s no reason for the alarms to be at DEFCON 1 in Lake Forest. There’s no reason to invoke Failures of Bears’ Offensive Line Past like a demented Christmas Story involving 300-plus-pound ephemeral people that didn’t live up to expectations in a game of physically gifted grown men.
But when one remembers that Jenkins opted out of the remaining five games of his senior 2020 college campaign partly due to “some lower back issues,” according to Tulsa World, it’s more than fair to wonder whether there’s something the Bears aren’t divulging about Jenkins. It’s more than fair to consider they knew he had an underlying back issue that perhaps might have caused part of his fall in the draft. It’s not as if offensive linemen, notoriously massive human-beings, have a sterling history of recovering well from back injuries, after all. As long as the Bears play coy with a rookie player who has not made an appearance two weeks into the summer session, and this history sitting in the background, this sort of speculation is anything but reckless. It’s warranted.
Some measure of concern is being built in brick by brick, growing with every day Jenkins misses.
Never one to answer hard questions unless it’s a controlled media environment where he can see everything coming a mile away, it’s time general manager Ryan Pace, or anyone that makes decisions for the Bears, speak up as to what is truly happening with someone they’ve invested so much of their future in. A setback here, with a young man considered an incremental building block, is too important to otherwise gloss over. There is something someone isn’t letting loose at Halas Hall about Jenkins and his back. Something has got to give.