More Pilates, less beer: How Teven Jenkins is working to earn the trust of his new Chicago Bears coaches

·6 min read

Teven Jenkins was midway through a post-practice interview Tuesday at Halas Hall when he felt the need to give a heartfelt plug for one of the catalysts of his 2022 offseason.

“I’ve got to namedrop my Pilates place,” he said. “Superior Pilates in Lake Forest. If you want a good workout, hit up Chris.”

Indeed, it has been Jenkins’ added attention to strengthening his core that has helped him become sturdier and feel more confident as he heads into his second season with the Chicago Bears. Summer back surgery interrupted Jenkins’ rookie season before it got going and ultimately limited him to just 161 offensive snaps over the final five games.

But that health setback, Jenkins insisted, is an afterthought. And the increased Pilates work, while often grueling, has become a big part of his self-improvement focus.

“You ever do a Pilates workout?” Jenkins said. “It is (torture). Oh my God. Ooh. But it’s good for you. So I’m happy to do it.”

As the Bears continue organized team activities during their ongoing transition to a new coaching staff and offensive system, Jenkins is in the mindset of doing whatever is best for him or whatever can help him help the team most.

“Get in where you fit in,” he said. “… I’m trying to elevate everything about myself, mentally and physically.”

General manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus made it clear upon their arrivals that they needed the offensive line to transform to fit the new system, calling for their linemen to be sleeker and more agile.

Jenkins’ first thought? Happy to do it. He dropped close to 20 pounds and decreased his body fat percentage, he says, from 33 to 24, with targeted strength and conditioning work and through diet modifications. The latter prompted Jenkins to remove carbs from his dinners on most nights, eliminating things like rice and mac and cheese, and reducing his alcohol intake.

“I’m trying to get more cleansed out, I guess,” he said. “That does help with your body fat. Instead of drinking all that beer (where) all that fat just sits on you, now you burn it off.”

Few players on the roster represent the challenges that come with a regime change more than Jenkins, whom former general manager Ryan Pace traded up to select early in the second round of the 2021 draft. Pace figured Jenkins would anchor the Bears’ left tackle position for years to come in coach Matt Nagy’s offense while developing under former line coach Juan Castillo.

Now, Jenkins is working to prove himself to Poles, Eberflus and new Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan while attempting to show he’ll be a good fit in coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. None of those new Bears leaders have any real attachment to Jenkins. So, quite simply, they’re working to see whether Jenkins fits into their long-term plans or whether he’ll become just another expendable item from the previous tenants to lug down to the curb.

For now, that has pushed Jenkins back to the right side of the offensive line — which may be a good thing. He played the majority of his college career at Oklahoma State at right tackle before the Bears pushed to mold him into a left tackle last season.

Jenkins couldn’t recall exactly when the new staff chose to flip him back to the right while asking fellow second-year tackle Larry Borom to give things a try on the left side. But he knows the conversation was quick to the point and came with little resistance. Playing on the right side may just be the optimal fit.

“It is comfortable,” Jenkins said. “It’s nice. And I do look forward to keep on getting reps at right tackle. … It’s more about where can I be the best for the team. And what can I do and what certain position (for me) is going to elevate the whole offense.”

Jenkins admits his rookie season tested his patience. It wasn’t just that a July back injury kept him from starting training camp and ultimately led to surgery Aug. 18. It’s that that setback came after Jenkins’ final college season ended in November 2020, also cut short by a separate back injury.

Therefore, Jenkins had plenty of rust and notable timing issues when he returned from injured reserve and was added to the active roster last December. Instead of having training camp and the preseason as a friendly runway into his NFL career, Jenkins’ first extended action on the offensive line came in Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football.”

As if the urgency to prove himself wasn’t already heightened, suddenly Jenkins had to hit the ground running on a huge stage with a bit of an internal rush to prove he belonged.

That test at Lambeau Field was Jenkins’ first of five games played on offense, all of which included expected bumpy patches. There were the seven penalties he incurred, including three false starts and a costly personal foul against the Minnesota Vikings when he rushed to protest a questionable hit on quarterback Justin Fields and threw a jab at defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

Jenkins was also sloppy on the left side at times and absorbed a few difficult lessons.

“One thing I did learn is you’re not going to win 100% of the snaps,” he said. “It’s about how consistent you can be. That’s how good you can be. So that’s what you’re trying to strive for all through practices and all these reps you’re getting. It’s about how consistently good can you be.”

Jenkins will push to improve that consistency, working to solidify himself as a starter and to acclimate to Getsy’s system, which is markedly different than the one Nagy ran.

“It’s a lot faster paced, a lot more up-tempo,” Jenkins said. “You’re getting around, setting edges, all that stuff.”

With Fields expected to be on the move more in 2022, Jenkins will have to show he is athletic and quick enough to handle his new assignments. As he noted Tuesday, until the offensive line is in full pads in training camp, it will be difficult to tell whether the weight he lost has diminished his strength at all.

Jenkins also stressed he must do everything he can to earn the trust of Poles, Eberflus and Getsy. That, he said, will require him to prove he fits in the new scheme while also showing he can play hard while reducing his mental mistakes.

“I’m working for that trust,” Jenkins said. “That’s ultimately what I want to have. Getting more of that trust that they have into me will make me feel more comfortable.”