Absences Hurting Young Bears' Development

Tackle Teven Jenkins is being hurt by the lack of work against top pass rushers because of his back injury, while the quarterbacks are being affected by another absence.
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It's only been three days of missed practice for left tackle Teven Jenkins but in training camps three days become a week and a week becomes a headache.

The back soreness the rookie second-round pick experienced has him sidelined and coach Matt Nagy realizes how critical this is. Considering the Bears have no one on the roster who has started an NFL game at left tackle and that includes backup Elijah Wilkinson, it's not just a casual absence.

"The No. 1 thing when you look at all of this for Teven is that we want to be able to see what he can do with pads on," Nagy said. "We understand that. The only way to do that is to be available and be out at practice. But at the same point and time as we are going through this back issue that he is having we want to makes sure we are taking care of it the right way by listening to him, listening to our doctors and our trainers and just taking it day by day.

"In the meantime, what that is doing is giving other guys opportunities to get reps at left tackle. So, for me, I know Teven, trust me, he wants to be out there but we have to control him from himself and that is what we are going to do here as we go through training camp. But obviously the sooner the better."

The missed practice time is depriving Jenkins of repetitions testing himself against Robert Quinn and sometimes Khalil Mack.

"I mean, you (media) could see in practice yesterday, Robert Quinn and Khalil are coming off that edge now," Nagy said. "Robert Quinn is doing well. You put on the tape and watch him, he's rolling right now. And I've gotta actually tell him to pull the heck back a little bit because he's getting in that throwing lane with the quarterback and we had a couple close ones yesterday. So if you see me freak out today, it's because of that.

"But yeah, Teven needs that. He's gotta be able to have that."

Nagy added of Jenkins "...just want to make it loud and clear: He wants to be out here bad, but we're holding him back. We've gotta do it this way."

At least Quinn's play is a positive in all this. At the outset of camp they said Quinn would be limited in practice due to back soreness, a year after he had only two sacks and then missed work at minicamp due to a back injury.

But Quinn has been completely active in the practices so far, and actually disruptive for passers. He's participated in just about every aspect of them.

Akiem Hicks' Return

The other bit of positive injury news for the Bears is Akiem Hicks' absence from Thursday's practice was due to what seems to be only a minor foot problem. He was expected to return to work.

"We just wanted to make sure that everything was good and that looks like that's the case," Nagy said.

It's possible Hicks and other veterans will get more days off, though. The team is putting an emphasis on what they're calling "load management," which means lessening the workload for veterans.

"You know, at times we called them vet days, and we're looking at calling it load management now and how we deal with that and they’re all a little bit specific," Nagy said. "We'll have a plan in place for training camp for those guys and then we will have a plan in place for the season on how we want to do that. That's all a part of this. I think a lot of teams deal with this."

The Bears may need it more than most teams because they could have six starters in their 30s on defense: Hicks, Mack, Quinn, Danny Trevathan, Tashaun Gipson and Desmond Trufant.

John DeFilippo's Absence

One other absence could be hurting the Bears at the moment: quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. He has been vaccinated but is away from practice and only available on meetings via Zoom because of the NFL's COVID-19 protocol—having been in contact with someone who tested positive.

"It's killing him," Nagy said.

This absence could be hurting rookie quarterback Justin Fields, if not all the quarterbacks when it comes to passing mechanics.

"But you know, Flip is like psychotic with fundamentals and that kinda stuff," Nagy said. "Flip lives for one thing—that's individual drills for 15 minutes with those quarterbacks. That's all he cares about. And he can't do that right now because he's on a computer. Zoom. 

"You're going to see some unbelievable individual drills when he gets back."

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