When the Bears drafted Teven Jenkins earlier this year, one of the talking points we heard repeatedly was that he could add some grit and nastiness to an offensive line that has lacked an attitude at times. On Monday night that grit was on full display when he started scrapping with several Vikings defenders following a hit against Justin Fields near the sideline. Jenkins ended up being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, prompting his teammate Germain Ifedi to rush in and roughhouse Jenkins a bit too.
The moment caught fire a bit on social media, with many defending Jenkins and criticizing Ifedi for pushing his own teammate after the fracas. But on Thursday, Ifedi stood by his actions on the field and shared his message to the rookie left tackle.
“There’s no good situation to cost the team in any scenario,” Ifedi said. “No matter how upset you are, you can’t do it. Look, I've been that guy in my career getting bad penalties. It may look like you’re doing it because of this and that. But at the end of the day, it hurts you and it hurts the team. We just can’t have that in any situation because 15 yards, you can’t get that back. There’s no play in the playbook unless the defense busts something.”
Ifedi understood why Jenkins was upset, and also understood why he started mixing it up with the Vikings. But he wanted Jenkins to understand there was a better way to make his point.
“What you have to do in that moment is, OK, I don’t like what he did but I have a lot more opportunities versus this player and I have a lot more opportunities to impose my will against this player between the whistles and do it the clean way, which is what we can do on the offensive line,” Ifedi said. “We can get aggressive and do it the clean way.
So, just in the future, I love the aggression. I love the passion he plays with. And I love the kid. But in the future, we don’t want to get those penalties.”
Jenkins did play with aggression throughout the game, and largely blocked well in both pass and run protection schemes. That shouldn’t be lost. But the numerous flags against Jenkins this season are certainly something he wants to clean up.
Looking back, Ifedi didn’t regret how he responded to Jenkins’ penalty, citing the bond between offensive line players, and the desire to hold each other to a high standard.
“It’s just tough love,” said Ifedi. “He’s a good kid. We’re a close-knit group so we can hold each other accountable. People can say what they want about how it looked, I pushed him. We're big boys. We’re asked to do a lot. We’re all grown men, at least in our room. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. We’re all men and we’re all accountable to everything. Just like they all hold me accountable to do my job and not hurt the team. We all hold each other accountable. Nobody is above that. Nobody is below that. That’s the good part of our room. I think that’s why we’ve had some good moments of success this year.”