The Bears will activate rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins off injured reserve for their game Sunday against the Cardinals at Soldier Field, coach Matt Nagy said. Now all they have to do is find a spot for him.
Jenkins, the Bears’ second-round draft pick from Oklahoma State who was slotted to replace Charles Leno at left tackle, hasn’t played this season after having back surgery in August. He returned to practice Nov. 15, and the Bears had a three-week window to decide whether he would be activated or kept on IR for the season.
Activating Jenkins moves the Bears a step closer to establishing the future bookend tackles they envisioned when they drafted Jenkins in the second round and Missouri’s Larry Borom in the fifth. Borom has started the last four games at right tackle to positive reviews after spending six weeks on IR with an ankle injury suffered in the season opener against the Rams.
But getting Jenkins the same experience as Borom will be a little more problematic. Veteran Jason Peters, whom the Bears signed in August when it became apparent that Jenkins’ back injury would require surgery, is the starter at left tackle and, at 39, has been their best offensive lineman.
With the 4-7 Bears still holding playoff hopes — they are one game behind seventh-seeded Washington but have six other teams ahead of them — they aren’t about to bench a future Hall of Famer who has been playing well just to get Jenkins some experience for next season.
So, for now, Jenkins will provide depth at tackle — left or right, Nagy said. Where and when he plays will be determined by Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and offensive line coach Juan Castillo as the season goes on. Nagy indicated that a rotation with Borom on the right side would be unworkable at this point of the season.
‘‘We’ll go over it and try to get a feel for where he’s at — which side and everything like that,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘But I think for us just being able to activate him is the good part.’’
Jenkins’ playing time would become more debatable if the Bears fall out of playoff contention. With nothing to play for but next season, getting Jenkins game-speed snaps would seem to be a priority, even if it means playing him ahead of Peters.
Nagy wasn’t thinking that far ahead, of course. But he acknowledged he’s curious to see what Jenkins can do.
‘‘When you draft a guy, you’re always anticipating how he’s going to play, so the answer would be yes,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘At the same time, he provides a lot of depth to us, and we have a position there at left tackle where Jason Peters is playing pretty well.
‘‘Right now we like our depth, and I think for Teven to come in and get going, we just kind of play it out. But it’s a good problem to have.’’
Regardless of when he plays, Jenkins will have some catching up to do. Though he participated in rookie and veteran minicamps, he didn’t take part in any training-camp practices because of the back issue. He hadn’t practiced in full pads until his recent return, and those instances were few and not with the starting unit.
Nagy said Jenkins can benefit from being active even if he doesn’t play. But Borom can attest to the value of rookie experience.
‘‘It means a world of difference,’’ Borom said. ‘‘It’s very valuable just to have me out there, just to get my feet wet. And to really be out there learning, going against the greatest competition there is.’’