LAKE FOREST – Teven Jenkins remains a Chicago Bear.
For the moment.
“I always say it’s in the air right now,” Jenkins said Tuesday of his future with the Bears after making the 53-man roster. “There’s nothing set in stone right now. Even if you’re on the 53-man list, that doesn’t mean you’ll be here tomorrow.”
Whether or not Jenkins remains a Bears is good, for him or for the team, that’s also murky.
The past month has been a whirlwind for the 24-year-old offensive lineman.
Jenkins arrived at camp aiming to regain his spot at tackle after falling to the second team during OTAs and minicamp. A minor injury cost him a week of practice, and during that time trade rumors swirled that Bears general manager Ryan Poles was trying to offload him.
These rumors persisted throughout camp and pre-season. Even after making a late stint in camp at right guard and appearing to earn the starting spot, Jenkins wasn’t convinced he’d be a bear when Tuesday rolled around.
Since returning to practice in good health, Jenkins has been open and honest with the media about the trade rumors circulating. It’s a refreshing dose of honesty, especially from a sophomore whose maturity has been questioned by unnamed media sources.
Jenkins sees no reason to hide from reality.
“Just don’t be naive about the situation,” Jenkins said. “Acknowledge what’s going on. Like you said, everyone knows what’s going on in the room. So you have to acknowledge that too, especially if it’s about your career and your life. [my fiancée] is the one who tells me what’s going on. She, my brother, my dad always call me to talk about what’s going on with me.”
Trade rumors and the loss of a starting job took a toll on Jenkins’ mental health. He explained how important the daily talks with his fiancée were to keep him balanced. He would come home every day after practice and call his agent, Joel Segal, to see if he had spoken to any Poles or if a trade was imminent.
Jenkins remained in limbo.
It’s impossible not to be impacted when your employer wants to dump you. The feeling of being unwanted, whether in a professional or personal setting, can be corrosive. Double for a talented, highly drafted offensive tackle who has probably been a star at every other place he has played.
“To be honest, I got unhappy,” Jenkins said. “I was very upset. Then as it continued because new talks were going on, I was getting more and more upset hearing about them and stuff.
“A lot of upset. Lots of talking, what I needed to do with me and my agent, just a lot of things had to happen to get me to where I am. Just start settling in and start getting to prepare.”
Despite the Bears’ insistence that Jenkins could return from his minor injury and compete for a starting tackle spot, the writing was on the wall. Jenkins returned and ran exclusively with the second and third teams leading up to the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Returning to the football field, healthy and ready to maim, seemed to lighten Jenkins’ shoulders.
“I had to come down to earth,” Jenkins said after the Bears’ preseason opener. “Like, I’m still here, I’m still doing this, my body is 100%, I could do it. I just have to trust myself to be able to perform high.”
Two days later, the Bears moved Jenkins to right guard. With Michael Schofield proving ineffective against the Chiefs, the Bears needed to find an answer on the inside. Jenkins’ high football IQ and physicality made him a natural choice to kick inside.
The transition was made at full speed. After a day of training, Jenkins was running with some. Then, two days later, he made his debut against the Seahawks in Seattle. He knew he needed to develop quickly as a guard to help the Bears and put his versatility on film for other teams to see as trade talks continued.
Another good outing on guard in the preseason finale likely cemented Jenkins on the 53-player roster, and it looks, for now, to have earned him a starting spot with Week 1 looming.
But it’s hard to put things behind you. You cling to that pain when you’ve been hurt or wronged. It’s only human. Letting things go is always easier said than done.
For Jenkins, he knows he has to compartmentalize the Bears’ desire to trade him, talks about his immaturity, changing his position and everything in between.
Like Jenkins development inside, this process is a work in progress.
“I have to do it. It’s really tough,” Jenkins said. “I’m still trying to figure that out right now. I’m trying to get over what happened. I’m looking forward to the season.
“It’s just about getting into the movie about the 49ers. It helps me because I have a game to worry about and I shouldn’t be worried about anything in the past.”
It’s easy to look at the Bears’ starting offensive line for the final two preseason games and assume that’s the five that will face the 49ers, with Lucas Patrick’s return TBD. This is not the meaning around the building. Things stay in motion and can change just like that.
The uncertainty felt by Jenkins over the past month is likely to persist. He knows it as well as anyone.
“There were many times when I wondered [if I would be here]”, Jenkins said. “I even wondered that today. I’m not at all sure about my future right now. Finally I can still [be traded]. It’s just about attacking every day.”
Jenkins likes to play good guard because he knows it’s better for his long-term future, whether it’s in Chicago or elsewhere. These daily discussions with his agent are likely to continue. He will lean on his fiancée and family to stabilize him amid a rocky start to his career.
Moving up to guard and being able to show off his versatility is a lifeline for his career.
But did that help dispel the discontent he felt?
“Uh…”, Jenkins trailed off.
He offered a smirk and a look that said, “what do you think?” before leaving, taking with him uncertainty and misfortune.
Click here to follow the Under Center podcast.
Download MyTeams today!