Bears OT Teven Jenkins keeps the peace, but where is this headed?

“I’m a loyal type of guy,” Jenkins said. “The Chicago Bears drafted me, so I’m going to stay with the Chicago Bears until whenever it is.”

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A photo of Bears offensive tackle Teven Jenkins from a 2021 game.

Jenkins practiced Saturday after being out since the first day of training camp.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

This is not how it sounds when everything is fine.

Offensive tackle Teven Jenkins returned Saturday — sort of — after missing seven practices with an unspecified injury. He took few reps, then gave few answers.

As the prying got underway, he gave a broad response to cover the various concerns swirling around him.

“Just in general, I’m here for the Chicago Bears right now,” Jenkins said. “I’m here to play football for the Chicago Bears, and that’s what I’m going to do and what I plan on doing right now.”

To Jenkins’ credit, he didn’t hide. He faced questions his first day back after a couple of weeks of trade speculation, mystery surrounding his latest injury and an assertion — a false one, he said — that there’s friction with the coaching staff.

Jenkins seemed to filter out a few thoughts that probably would’ve inflamed an already combustible situation. Whether he truly wants to remain with the Bears or would prefer a fresh start, keeping the peace as much as possible is the prudent path.

He declined to disclose when, how or to what extent he got hurt. He participated in the first practice of training camp July 27, and it’s unclear what ensued. Coach Matt Eberflus said his absence was 100% injury-related and consistently classified it as day-to-day.

Jenkins, who had back trouble in college and missed most of his rookie season because of back surgery, wouldn’t answer a direct question about whether he injured his back.

But health is only part of the equation. The transition at Halas Hall hasn’t been good for Jenkins, and there’s a canyon between the way this staff and the previous one views him.

Former general manager Ryan Pace was “fired up” when he traded up to draft Jenkins in the second round at No. 39 overall last year and saw him as the franchise’s left tackle for the next decade.

Ryan Poles was only a month into the job when he expressed uncertainty over whether Jenkins should play left tackle or right. A few months later, rookie Braxton Jones — a fifth-round pick from Southern Utah — overtook him on the depth chart during offseason practices.

Jones is lean for a lineman at 6-5 and 310 pounds and fits the ideal physique Poles has described. Jenkins is 6-6 and said he got up to 345 pounds as a rookie. He said he checked in at precisely 321.8 pounds after practice Saturday.

Between his build and what it had seen on film from the six games he played last season, it was obvious the new administration wasn’t sold on Jenkins. Now Jones is the front-runner to win at left tackle, while the right-tackle race seems to have narrowed to Larry Borom and Riley Reiff. At best, that puts Jenkins fourth in line at tackle.

When asked if he thought Poles and Eberflus gave him a fair chance, he said, “I believe so, yes,” and left it at that. He added that he thinks he has a legitimate shot at winning a starting job, expects to be with the Bears this season and hasn’t been wishing for a restart elsewhere.

“I’m a loyal type of guy,” Jenkins said. “The Chicago Bears drafted me, so I’m going to stay with the Chicago Bears until whenever it is.”

But these aren’t the same Bears that drafted him.

“I know that,” he said. “But it was the organization that drafted me. I believe in them.”

Jones, by the way, exited practice with what Eberflus called a negligible injury and was replaced by journeyman Shon Coleman. That opportunity could’ve gone to Jenkins, except that he’s still on a “ramp-up” plan after the injury and took minimal reps.

Jenkins said he expected to be at full strength soon and available for the preseason opener Saturday against the Chiefs.

He repeatedly reiterated his commitment to the Bears and said he was willing to shift to guard if that’s what it took.

“I want to be here in Chicago, so I’m playing wherever they need me,” Jenkins said.

The problem is they seem to have already decided they don’t need him. And if that’s the case, moving on would be best for both sides.

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