Teven Jenkins is back at home on the right side of the Bears offensive line, even if it's a less glamorous position than last year and there is less of him playing it.
Jenkins and Larry Borom flipped tackle sides at the orders of the new Bears coaching staff this offseason. It's a change made all the more difficult by a new offense calling for more movement by linemen, requiring they be light enough to be mobile.
"It feels good. You know?" Jenkins said at Bears OTAs. "It's what I played mostly in college, so it is comfortable. It's nice, and I do look forward to keep on getting reps at right tackle."
Jenkins said coaches have left open the possibility of a flip back if things don't work out, but the plan is to keep the tackles where they are.
"Nothing's ever set in stone right now," Jenkins said.
However, it is clear to him what the team wants. And after back surgery last year, a big weight loss, a new offense and a new side of the line, it's almost like the Bears have an entirely different person playing tackle.
"For me, it's more about where can I be the best for the team?" Jenkins said. "And what can I do and what certain position is going to elevate the whole offense, for me? That's my personal thing about it."
It's His Natural Position
Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and the Bears staff last year decided the team needed him to start at left tackle, where he'd started seven times in college. He had started 26 times at right tackle in college.
It didn't work out, mainly because he had a back injury that required surgery in August and kept him out until Week 12, but then he seemed lost at times when he retured after having no training camp or even contact practices.
"You know, it was a hard thing from me being out for the whole year before as well," Jenkins said.
Jenkins had opted out in college after a November game with Oklahoma State with four weeks of the season remaining in 2020 and so in essence he was away from any type of contact practice for over a year.
As a result, he said he felt the pressure to produce immediately, it probably wasn't realistic. It showed in his play at first, anyway.
"It's like anything that when you're most comfortable," Jenkins said. "Say you're outside smoking food for a while and you don't do it for like a year and a half, you might have a little mess-up. You might burn your food. You might do something like that.
"It's like trying to get back into the regularity of it and trying to figure out how can you get back there as fast as you can. It's trying to perfect your stuff, like all your stuff, like your craft."
Jenkins is in better shape now physically to attack, even if the new offense demands more.
Getting More Mobile
"One of the things that’s been helping that is me doing Pilates right now," he said. "So, I got to name-drop my Pilates place, Superior Pilates, I believe in Lake Forest. If you guys want a good workout, hit up Chris."
Commercial aside, it's definitely helped him in a few ways.
"I have no thought about my back," he said. "I trust everything that goes into it, especially the Pilates part. Making my core strong. As soon as you have your core strong, all of that takes away from any back pain you might have. I'm not worried about the back at all."
Jenkins needs his back and the rest of his body in better shape because of the new Bears wide-zone blocking approach.
"Yeah, it is a big difference," he said. "It's a lot more faster pace, a lot more up tempo, getting around, setting edges, all that stuff. How that affects you is you got to slim down a little bit more, get faster, speeding up in certain areas."
So he has slimmed down.
"I'm down to 325," he said. "Last season I was up to 345. I got down to I believe at the end of last season I was 33% body fat. Now I'm down to about 24 (%). So, slimming down is difficult but you got to be disciplined in yourself to stay on the right diet and make sure your body does what it’s supposed to do."
It's meant changing his diet.
"At dinner, I try to cut out carbs," he said. "You know how hard it is to cut out mac 'n' cheese, rice—it's a perfect go-to when you're going with a meal. You've gotta cut that out so it's mostly protein and vegetables.
"But yeah, anything like rice I cut out. And I've been trying to cut out some more alcohol out of my system. I'm trying to get more cleansed out, I guess. And also that does help with your body fat, instead of drinking all that beer, all that fat just sits on you, you burn it off."
The Pilates doesn't hurt here, either.
"You ever do a Pilates workout?" he asked the Bears media members. "It is ... 'oh my God. Oh.' But it's good for you. So I'm happy to do it."
The other thing he'll be happy to see when they actually start hitting and protecting Justin Fields is exactly that—protecting Justin Fields. It didn't sit well with Jenkins or Bears fans for that matter when Fields was roughed up after a play out of bounds by the Minnesota Vikings and teammates other than Jenkins failed to rush to his aid. Jenkins got a penalty for his efforts and tackle Germain Ifedi chewed him out on national TV for drawing the flag by coming to the aid of his QB.
He sees an offensive line building with more willingness to play with chips on their shoulders, so to speak.
"I do think that, yeah," he said. "What's been shown so far in OTAs, I see the fire, all the fighting, all the rest of the O-line. So, I'm really excited for what's gonna be coming up here in a couple months."
Whether he's part of it from the right side instead of the left doesn't matter, as long as it gets done.
"Ultimately, yeah, but I don't like to talk about it," Jenkins said. "I like to do it, instead.
"A lot of things to be done instead of spoken for. That’s what it is."