Apologies in advance for the bad pun/dad joke, but Bears tackle Teven Jenkins is confident that his back issues are behind him.
After being selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2021 draft, the Oklahoma State product missed the first 11 games of his rookie season after undergoing back surgery in mid-August. He made his NFL debut Dec. 5 against the Cardinals and played in the final six games.
Fast forward to the present and Jenkins reports that he's 100 percent. He isn't concerned one bit about last year's injury, in part because he has strengthened his body by doing Pilates.
"I have no thought about my back," Jenkins said. "I trust everything that goes into it, especially the Pilates part, making your core strong. As soon as you have your core strong, all that takes away from any back pain you might have. I'm not worried about the back at all."
Sitting out the first three months of his rookie season was difficult for Jenkins, who was eager to prove that he belonged in the NFL.
"The urgency to come back and say that I need to be getting these reps, I need to show something that says I deserve to be where I'm at was very pressing to me," Jenkins said. "It was making sure my mental was good enough to push myself to be the best I could be out there."
In his first NFL game, Jenkins played just two special-teams snaps against the Cardinals. A week later, he was inserted at left tackle in the first quarter versus the Packers after veteran Jason Peters suffered a high ankle sprain. Jenkins started the next two games, exited a win in Seattle with a shoulder injury and then returned for the final two contests.
Jenkins revealed that his biggest takeaway from his rookie season was that "you're not going to win 100 percent of the snaps."
"It's about how consistent you can be is how good you can be," he said. "And that's what you're trying to strive for all through practices and all these reps you're getting is how consistently good can you be. That's the main thing I learned."
“For me, it’s about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still.” Bears tackle Teven Jenkins
Under first-year coach Matt Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, Jenkins has been lining up with the No. 1 offense at right tackle.
"It feels good," Jenkins said. "That's where 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."
Shortly after being hired as Bears general manager in January, Ryan Poles informed the team's offensive linemen that he wanted them to get leaner and quicker. Jenkins followed that edict, shedding 20 pounds.
"I'm down to 325. Last season I was up to 345," he said. "I believe at the end of last season I was 33 percent body fat. Now, I'm down to about 24. Slimming down is difficult, but you've got to be disciplined in yourself to make sure that you stay on the right diet and make sure your body does what it's supposed to do."
Jenkins dropped the weight mostly by changing his diet.
"There are a lot of things you have to cut out," he said. "At dinner, I try to cut out carbs. 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 got to cut that out, so it's mostly protein and vegetables.
"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, so you burn it off."
Jenkins has been burning plenty of calories on the practice field working in the Bears' new offense.
"There 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've got to slim down a little bit more, get faster and speeding up in certain areas."
With a new general manager and coaching staff, Jenkins is determined to prove that he can be counted on to perform at a high level.
"For me, it's about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still," he said. "I'm working for that trust. That's ultimately what I'm doing. And putting more of that trust they have into me will make me feel more comfortable. I am working for their trust."
Get a look at Bears players participating in the club's annual photo shoot at Halas Hall.