Bears’ Jenkins hopes focus on exercise, nutrition pays dividends

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins came to a crossroads on Aug. 18, 2023.

It was the day after the Bears had concluded two days of joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts. The 25-year-old could tell something felt off when he went through a series of workouts with trainers one day before Chicago’s preseason game at Indianapolis.

That moment marked the end of a promising offseason for Jenkins, who had been thriving at left guard since making the switch from right guard ahead of OTAs. A calf injury forced Jenkins to start the season on injured reserve and miss Chicago’s first four games, all of which were losses.

This was the third time in three seasons Jenkins faced a long-term injury. After missing most of his rookie season in 2021 due to preseason back surgery and sustaining a neck injury that landed him in the hospital last December (and subsequently season-ending injured reserve), Jenkins considered this latest setback a “wake-up call” to finally make major lifestyle changes.

“I started thinking, what’s the definition of insanity? It’s like doing the same thing over expecting a different result,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been trying to change my diet, I’ve been seeing a body work specialist, things that I didn’t do in the past that I can try to do right now and hopefully that does help me along.”

Jenkins has been open about the changes he’s made to invest in his health. His neck and back injuries made him incorporate Pilates into his routine to strengthen the muscles around his spine and core. After his calf injury, Jenkins decided his eating habits were a major part of what held him back. He hired a personal chef and gave up his favorite order at Wendy’s (a Baconator, large fry, large strawberry lemonade, 10-piece spicy chicken nuggets and a Frosty) in the name of clean eating.

“I knew I had to change something this offseason because I’ve had past injuries,” he said. “I was slowing into it. I was tiptoeing back and forth (about) what I should do, and I’m really bought into it right now.”

Jenkins returned to action in Chicago’s 40-20 win at Washington in Week 5. Hours after being activated to the 53-man roster last Thursday, the offensive lineman was in a rotation at left guard with Cody Whitehair on a night the Bears amassed 451 total yards.

A second-quarter concussion sustained by center Lucas Patrick forced Whitehair to slide over and for Jenkins to finish out the game against Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne, two of the NFL’s best interior defensive linemen.

“It was like he never left,” left tackle Larry Borom said. “He’s a good player. I can feel the energy when he’s out there. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

Jenkins played a total of 37 snaps, 16 of which came in pass-blocking situations and he did not allow a pressure or a sack. The Bears also choreographed most of their rushes behind Jenkins in his 21 run-blocking snaps. The sample size was limited, but it reinforced Jenkins’ dominance up front, and how the Bears’ offensive line can change the outlook for the entire offense.

“He performed well, and of course you’ve got to knock a little rust off,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “There was certainly that part of it, but he did a really good job in there, and there’s certainly a good player in there. He gives us a lot of size in there and a lot of lean mass to hold the pocket firm inside there. And again, the offensive line did a remarkable job of doing that, giving [quarterback] Justin [Fields] the time.”

With Patrick still in concussion protocol, the Bears may need to forego their rotation with Jenkins and Whitehair against Minnesota. For as strong as he looked in limited snaps against the Commanders, getting Jenkins through a full game at left guard would be a step toward the Bears getting to carry over the continuity they’ve cultivated up front.

“I feel really good right now,” Jenkins said. “I think I’d be ready for a whole game. We’re going to see where I am conditioning-wise and keep on going.”

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