Tevin Jenkins’ mysterious absence from Chicago Bears training camp practices reached the one-week mark Wednesday, when the second-year offensive tackle missed his sixth straight practice.
The Bears go on to say that Jenkins is dealing with an injury without offering a bit of additional detail. And when coach Matt Eberflus was pressed about whether Jenkins had been in attendance at Halas Hall this week, he remained vague.
“To work with the coaches, yes,” Eberflus said Wednesday. He is in the building. Of course.”
Still, there has been no indication that Jenkins was an active participant in the meetings. He also hasn’t been on the sidelines during practice to do mental reps. And with NFL Network reporting earlier this week that the Bears have engaged in trade talks regarding Jenkins, there’s more than a little swirl of smoke to indicate that he’s quickly fading from the team’s plans, both short and long. long term.
And now that?
Eberflus was asked directly when it might change the “day to day” status designated by the Jenkins team. “When I do,” he replied.
As for the impact of Jenkins missing so much practice time in the last two weeks? “Anybody who wastes time on the grass, that’s not good,” Eberflus said. “It’s not good for the player, it’s not good for the team.”
Eberflus has talked a lot this week about the ability of players to display what he calls “functional intelligence,” taking what they’re taught in the classroom and on the course and showing they can apply it productively in high-speed practice situations.
“How do we see that without (a player) really functioning on the field?” Eberflus said. “So that’s the important part of it.”
For those keeping score, Jenkins has participated in exactly one training camp practice during his two summers with the Bears. That happened on July 27 during a shorter acceleration session. But the next day, he left without much explanation from the team. His return to practice remains indefinite.
Eberflus on Wednesday again said Jenkins’ absence was 100% injury related. Whatever the case, this marks the second consecutive camp that Jenkins’ attendance has become a major story at Halas Hall.
In 2021, Jenkins reported to camp early with the rookies, but was sidelined before the first practice with a back problem. Then-coach Matt Nagy initially downplayed the setback and even said during the third week of camp that it was “an arrow up” in regards to Jenkins’ progress getting back on the field. But nine days later, the second-round pick had back surgery, keeping him out of practice until November.
Jenkins saw his first offensive action of his rookie season in Week 14, forced to play at Lambeau Field when starting left tackle Jason Peters suffered a right ankle injury. Jenkins played 49 snaps that night and 73 the following week as a starter. But even at the end of a lost season under a coaching staff that knew his ultimate fate, the Bears showed a lack of faith in Jenkins and a lack of commitment to his long-term development.
Jenkins played only three offensive snaps in the Bears’ 25-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16 and seven more the following week in a 29-3 rout of the New York Giants. In the season finale, the Bears continued to use the 39-year-old Peters as their starting left tackle and turned to Jenkins only in the second half of a disheartening loss to the Minnesota Vikings that marked a 6–11 season.
Jenkins finished the year as the Bears’ second-most penalized player with seven and entered the offseason with a lot to prove.
In June, Jenkins highlighted the investments he had made during the offseason to improve his game, working to improve his diet and reshape his body while striving to be more consistent.
“I’m trying to elevate everything about myself, mentally and physically,” he said.
But even going back to the process leading up to the 2021 draft, there have been questions within league circles about how much passion for football pumps through Jenkins’ veins. The only way to answer such questions, of course, is in the field.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles has expressed interest in reshaping the offensive line since his arrival, communicating a desire to find linemen who are athletic, agile and play with constant meanness. If Jenkins wants to show that he fits that mold, his inability to practice during such an important stage of the Bears’ building efforts will prove detrimental.
As for the possibility of the Bears trading Jenkins before the season starts, it’s one thing to get calls from other teams about Jenkins’ availability and another to have tangible offers. In league circles, there is skepticism that the Bears could get more than a sixth- or seventh-round pick for Jenkins, who was widely considered a top 50 prospect heading into the 2021 draft, but He has yet to prove his ability. value in the NFL.
And even then, the return on working capital might not be tied to next spring. (As a frame of reference, the Bears dealt a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Patriots last month to acquire wide receiver N’Keal Harry, a former first-round pick who faded to New England.)
Last summer, the Bears received a fifth-round pick when they sent 2018 second-round pick Anthony Miller plus a seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans.
With Jenkins fading from what has been open competition on the offensive line, rookie Braxton Jones continues to impress coaches as a possible starter at left tackle. On Wednesday, Riley Reiff and Larry Borom split first-unit reps at right tackle, the position where Jenkins saw most of his work this spring.
The Bears continue to move forward without Jenkins. And with each passing day, the organization seems closer to a disappointing conclusion, facing the possibility that another highly selected player will fizzle out under his watch.