When the Bears initially announced that rookie tackle Teven Jenkins was going to need back surgery, the team was optimistic that he could return to play at some point this season. Matt Nagy unsurprisingly declined to put a specific timeline on his potential return date, but according to a report from Adam Schefter, the hope was Jenkins could return to action by November.
November is now only a couple of weeks away, but it doesn’t sound like Jenkins is any closer to playing than he was a couple of months ago.
“It's no change with him,” Nagy said when asked if he had a progress report on Jenkins’ rehab.
The Bears have since replaced Jenkins with Jason Peters at left tackle, and Peters has played well for the most part. It’s debatable whether or not Jenkins, a rookie, would be playing better than Peters, a future Hall of Famer, so the Bears haven’t missed Jenkins too much on Sundays. But it’s not debatable how much Jenkins is missing because he can’t practice or play.
There’s no replacement for practice reps or in-game experience for a young player. Just ask Justin Fields. But that’s not to say this is a totally lost year for Jenkins.
“No problem keeping him engaged, because when we’re in our meetings, you know, we ask everybody questions,” said offensive line coach Juan Castillo. “I have a bunch of great guys, so the guys keep him engaged. They have fun. They work their ass off, they have fun.
“So then when we’re watching tape it’s easy just to ask him questions, just like everybody else. He’s a very smart young man and very dedicated young man.”
Beyond that, the Bears have given the younger offensive linemen, including Jenkins, some homework to do and present in front of the rest of the group: putting together scouting reports on a specific player they’re about to face on defense.
“They write him up, they put a video together and then they present it in front of the older kids that are playing,” Castillo said. “So that’s what he does.”
In addition, there’s a little bit of busy work, but some of these menial tasks have some value for a rookie.
“Then he’ll put up on the board, he’ll put up for me, he puts up the roster, he puts up the run plays,” Castillo said. “So I’ve got him doing things to keep him active. Also, so he can hear the plays and all that. But he’s in the meetings all the time, so staying very active, stays around the guys. Great kid, hard worker, excited.”
Jenkins isn’t just learning from meetings or homework, though. He can also pick things up just from being around a future Hall of Famer like Peters, day in and day out.
“He’s really been good for the young men, because they can ask him questions about how things have happened,” Castillo said. “Like the first week that he was here, everybody has a perception about being physical, that you’ve got to be one of those guys.
“So Jason was there and I said, ‘Jason, how do you become physical? How do you get a physical mind? You’ve been through a lot of good lines and so-so lines.’ And Jason said, ‘You finish. You finish plays and that’s how you become a physical line.’ So things like that have been good.”
There’s still a chance Jenkins does make it onto the field at some point this season. But if he doesn’t the Bears are still working on ways to develop him as much as possible in the classroom.