'Everything is pointing up:' Now healthy, Jenkins ready to 'show out' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CHICAGO – As the clock wound down on the Bears' 19-14 preseason win over the Kansas Chiefs at Soldier Field, Teven Jenkins found himself staring at the scoreboard, elation washing over him.
It was the pure, unfiltered kind of joy one feels when they experience something they truly love. It can be intoxicating and mesmerizing. It's heightened when you've had to wrestle with the thought of never experiencing it again, when you've battled the uncertainty of what comes next much earlier than "next" was supposed to arrive.
"I had to bring myself back down to earth," Jenkins said after the Bears' preseason opener. "Like, I'm still here, I'm still doing this, my body is 100 percent, I could do this. I just have to trust myself to be able to perform high."
That's how much Jenkins loves football. How much he wants to live up to his potential.
The Bears young tackle's NFL journey hasn't been easy.
The first injury of his football career kept him from making his NFL debut until Week 13 last season. Jenkins spent the offseason reshaping his body to fit the Bears' new wide-zone scheme and entered the offseason with the inside track to be the starting right tackle.
However, he quickly slid down the depth chart.
A minor injury stole a week of training camp from Jenkins. While he was out, rumors swirled that he had been clashing with coaches and that the Bears were looking to trade him. It was a mental burden to face all the online criticism without an on-field outlet to silence them.
Jenkins returned to practice and went through a ramp-up period, leading to Saturday's preseason opener against the Chiefs.
He saw action with the second and third teams Saturday. The second-year tackle had a tough first series, but he finished the game on a high note that included a massive block where he buried linebacker Jack Cochrane.
That block on Cochrane is a perfect example of what Jenkins wants to show the Bears' new staff. The power and physicality he's known for can and will translate to this new up-tempo, wide-zone scheme.
Jenkins finished the game with what he called "little bruises," but otherwise is fully healthy. As for his performance, he expects better of himself. He knows he has to clean up some things. Jenkins lamented a few missed blocks and noted he surrendered some pressures he knows can't happen.
Self-critiques of his play aside, being able to play appeared to lift a weight off Jenkins' back.
"It feels good because being in and out of camp, I was unsure about what was going to happen," Jenkins said. "Coming back, it was great to be out there and be out in the game and be 100 percent."
Jenkins' future with the Bears still is uncertain. He's behind Braxton Jones, Riley Reiff, and Larry Borom on the tackle depth chart. As has always been the case with Jenkins, the physical tools are there. Health has been the issue early in his NFL career.
But now fully healthy, Jenkins is looking forward to the opportunity in front of him. The chance to show everyone he can still be the dominant tackle many predicted coming out of Oklahoma State.
"Everything right now is pointing up for me," Jenkins said. "I'm feeling good and looking forward to Thursday [at Seattle] so I can show myself out and make sure I can still play this game at a high level.
Jenkins exited Soldier Field on Saturday with a clean bill of health and a bone-crushing block to add to his NFL mantle.
He also left with a soul warmed and reinvigorated by the opportunity and ability to play the game he loves.
"As I'm starting to play it again, I'm starting to appreciate all the snaps I get, all the downs, all the camaraderie with my teammates," Jenkins said.
It's something he won't take for granted ever again.