Bears rookie LT Teven Jenkins ‘exactly where I need to be’

But the second-round draft pick — pegged to be a rookie starter — knows he has a lot to learn and a lot to prove once the Bears practice in pads. And he can’t wait.

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Bears rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins has been pegged as a Week 1 starter but has a lot to learn and will have even more to prove when training camp begins in July.

Bears rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins has been pegged as a Week 1 starter but has a lot to learn and will have even more to prove when training camp begins in July.

David Banks/AP

The past year has been a blur for Bears rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins.

He started last season at left tackle for Oklahoma State against Tulsa, moved to right tackle the next week, opted out after seven games, started preparing for the draft, lost weight, got drafted, gained weight, participated in rookie minicamp, then the Bears’ offseason program and finally veteran minicamp this week.

It’s time for a well-deserved break. But the kid is so pumped about playing in the NFL, he wants to keep going. If training camp started today, he’d be thrilled.

“It’s just work for me, and that’s exactly what I need,” the 6-6, 320-pound Jenkins said Thursday after minicamp concluded. “So I’d be happy with it because I just want to keep perfecting my craft.”

Jenkins said he plans to return to his home in Dallas, spend time with his girlfriend and her family and continue to work out in preparation for his first NFL training camp.

“I’m actually excited to put on pads,” Jenkins said. “It’s been however many months for me. I’ve been missing that sound, missing that feeling. And I’m very excited to get back out there.”

Bears coach Matt Nagy and offensive line coach Juan Castillo share that excitement. Jenkins has been pegged as a Week 1 rookie starter at left tackle since the Bears cut veteran Charles Leno three days after they traded up to take Jenkins 39th overall in the second round of the draft. Jenkins played with the second team behind veteran Elijah Wilkinson in OTA practices. But he played with the starters at left tackle next to guard Cody Whitehair in minicamp when Wilkinson moved to right tackle to replace the injured Germain Ifedi.

“I think for Tev, being able to line up with the ones and see what that’s like being on the left side and getting to go up against some of these experienced vets and getting some communication with Cody [is good],” Nagy said.

“It’s hard because there are no pads, so [we tell] the defense you have to take three hard steps and pull up. There is no bull-rushing. You can’t lower your head. So it’s not really real, but they can at least get the burst and we can work their feet. Teven is doing a really good job of trying to get down the fundamentals of what coach Juan teaches and put it together.”

With so much to learn, Jenkins’ head figures to be spinning in the first few days of camp, especially once the Bears practice in full pads.

“Right now … I’m trying my best to understand the pace of the game as we’re going against the defense and understanding how fast the change is from college to NFL, of course,” Jenkins said.

“It’s all about getting in there with coach Castillo and keep working on my sets, working on my left and keep working on that till I’m fluid and being more comfortable in my stance.”

Like most rookies, it’s a matter of how quickly the game can slow down for him. But for Jenkins, it seems like a matter of when and not if. Asked if there was a time when he knew he belonged, he said there were several.

“There’s a lot of moments for me,” Jenkins said, “because we’ve been going since OTAs — some veteran guys were at OTAs. And when everybody got here for minicamp, I felt like I belonged, where I knew I’m exactly where I need to be.”

NOTES: Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols did not practice for the second consecutive day because of a toe injury. “I feel like he’s going to be fine [for training camp],” Nagy said.

• The Bears signed offensive lineman Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and defensive lineman Mike Pennel, their agents said. Both participated in the mandatory minicamp as tryout players.

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