Teven Jenkins remains a Bear, but uncertainty, unhappiness remain

·6 min read

Teven Jenkins remains a Bear, but uncertainty, unhappiness remain originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – Teven Jenkins remains a Chicago Bear.

For now.

"I still say it's up in the air right now," Jenkins said Tuesday of his future with the Bears after making the 53-man roster. "There's nothing solidified right now. Even if you make the 53-man roster, it doesn't mean you're going to be here tomorrow."

Whether or not Jenkins remaining a Bears is good, for him or the team, is also murky.

The last month has been a whirlwind for the 24-year-old offensive lineman.

Jenkins arrived at camp looking to win back 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.

Those rumors persisted throughout camp and the preseason. Even after making a late-camp switch to right guard and appearing to earn the starting spot, Jenkins wasn't confident he would be a Bear when Tuesday rolled around.

Since he returned to practice healthy, Jenkins has been open and honest with the media about the trade rumors circulating. It's a refreshing dose of honesty, especially coming from a second-year player who has had his maturity questioned by anonymous sources in the media.

Jenkins sees no reason to hide from reality.

"Just basically not being naïve to the situation," Jenkins said. "Acknowledging what's going on. Like you said, everybody knows what's going in the room. So, you have to acknowledge it too, especially if it's about your career and your life. It also helps that [my fiancée] is the one that tells me what's going on. Her, my brother, my dad always call me talking about stuff that's going on with me."

The trade rumors and loss of a starting job took a toll on Jenkins' mental health. He has talked about how important daily talks with his fiancée have been to keep him even-keeled. He would go home every day after practice and call his agent, Joel Segal, to see if he had spoken to 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. Doubly so 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 unhappy. Then, as it kept going on because more talks kept coming, I was getting more unhappy about hearing about them and everything.

"A lot of unhappiness. A lot of talks, what I had to do with me and my agent, just a lot of things had to go down for me to be at the point where I'm at. Just start settling down and start getting ready."

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 came back and ran exclusively with the second and third teams leading into the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Getting back on the football field, healthy and ready to maul, seemed to take a weight off Jenkins' shoulders.

"I had to bring myself back down to earth," Jenkins said after the Bears' preseason opener. "Like, I'm still here, I'm still doing this, my body is 100 percent, I could do this. 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 interior. Jenkins' high football IQ and physicality made him a natural choice to kick inside.

The transition happened at warp speed. After one day of practice, Jenkins was running with the ones. Then, two days later, he made a start against the Seahawks in Seattle. He knew he had to develop as a guard quickly to help the Bears and put his versatility on film for other teams to see as trade talks continued.

Another good outing at guard in the preseason finale likely cemented Jenkins on the 53-man roster, and it appears, for now, to have earned him a starting spot with Week 1 looming.

But it's hard to put things behind you. You hold onto that pain when you've been hurt or wrong. 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, position change, and everything else.

Like Jenkins' development on the interior, that process is a work in progress.

"I need to do that. It's really hard," Jenkins said. "I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that right now. Trying to get passed what happened. Look forward to the season.

"It's just about getting into the film about the 49ers. That helps me because I have a game to worry about and I shouldn't worry about anything in the past."

It's easy to look at the Bears' starting offensive line for the past two preseason games and assume that's the five that will go out against the 49ers, with Lucas Patrick's return to be determined. That's not the sense around the building. Things remain in flux and can change like that.

The uncertainty Jenkins has felt for the past month is likely to remain. He knows that as well as anyone.

"There were many times I was wondering [if I would be here]," Jenkins said. "I was even wondering that today. I'm just not sure about my future at all right now. Ultimately, I still can [be traded]. It's just about attacking every day."

Jenkins is enjoying playing right guard because he knows it's best for his long-term future, whether in Chicago or elsewhere. Those daily talks with his agent will probably continue. He'll lean on his fiancée and his family to steady him amid a turbulent early-career moment.

Switching to guard and being able to show off his versatility is a career lifeline.

But has it helped the unhappiness he felt dissipate?

"Um …, "Jenkins trailed off.

He offered a smirk and a look that said, "what do you think?" before heading out, carrying the uncertainty and unhappiness with him.

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