‘Stay healthy’: Bears guard Jenkins hopes to stay on field more, earn new contract

Bears left guard Teven Jenkins and his agent have reached out to the team about a potential contract extension, but “nothing is on the table,” Jenkins said Wednesday at Halas Hall.

Asked how he felt about that, Jenkins said, “Up in the air.”

There tends to be a common sequence of events with these types of contract talks. Jenkins’ camp reaching out comes as no surprise. Jenkins is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract. He became eligible to begin discussions this off-season.

From the Bears’ perspective, it also doesn’t feel like a huge surprise that general manager Ryan Poles isn’t ready to make a deal. In his first two years as GM, Poles has been fairly cautious when it comes to handing out big money. He hasn’t been afraid to let contract talks linger into training camp and beyond.

With Jenkins in particular, injuries have to be a part of the equation. Poles probably wants to see Jenkins play a relatively healthy season. So far the 26-year-old offensive lineman has yet to appear in more than 13 games in a season. Poles isn’t going to commit big money to a player whom he might consider an injury risk.

That makes the 2024 season a huge point in Jenkins’ career with the Bears.

“Stay healthy,” Jenkins said when asked about his 2024 goals. “That’s No. 1 and of the utmost importance for me right now. Stay healthy, get through the whole 17 games and continue my strong play from last year, and be a more consistent, reliable guy.”

Jenkins, a 2021 second-round draft pick, recently had his first child. He, no doubt, is eager for the financial stability that a long-term contract would bring.

Last year, the Bears weren’t ready to extend cornerback Jaylon Johnson before the season. Johnson missed six games the season prior. The coaching staff tasked him with proving himself on the field by creating more turnovers.

Johnson picked off four passes and forced one fumble in 2023. The Bears rewarded him with a four-year, $76 million contract in March, making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.

This could be shaping up to be a similar “prove it” season for Jenkins. Stay healthy and keep being the beast that he has been at left guard. The Bears have rewarded several players with contract extensions in the past year: Johnson, defensive end Montez Sweat, tight end Cole Kmet, kicker Cairo Santos and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

“It’s good to see that stuff, that the Bears are willing to do that,” Jenkins said. “But every situation is different. We have to go about it, me and my agent, however the [front office] wants to do it.”

Minicamp Day 2

The Bears held the second practice of their three-day mandatory minicamp Wednesday at Halas Hall. The team continued to have near full attendance.

Left tackle Braxton Jones was not present during practice. Coach Matt Eberflus said the Bears kept him out as a precaution due to an unspecified injury.

Additionally, tight end Cole Kmet and receiver Tyler Scott were present but did not participate. For the first time this spring, right guard Nate Davis participated in some team sessions, but not all of them. Davis sat out large portions of training camp last year because of an off-the-field personal issue. He has not participated on the field much this spring. The Bears signed Davis to a three-year, $30 million contract ahead of the 2023 season.

Eberflus said he “expects” Davis will be the starting right guard when training camp begins in July. He also said he has no expectations that Davis will be limited when camp begins.

“I haven’t heard that or foreseen that,” Eberflus said.

When Davis has been out, new additions Ryan Bates and Coleman Shelton have played the right guard position for the Bears during minicamp. Asked about the position, Eberflus sounded unsure of how things might play out.

“Yeah, don’t know yet,” Eberflus said. “I really don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.”

Practice highlights

Rookie quarterback Caleb Williams threw one of his best passes of the entire spring Wednesday. During an 11-on-11 session, Williams unleashed a deep ball toward the right sideline for receiver Velus Jones Jr.

Williams hit Jones perfectly in stride for a touchdown. The throw, like many of Williams’ deep shots, looked effortless from the No. 1 overall draft pick.

The touchdown pass came one play after linebacker Tremaine Edmunds picked off Williams on a toss over the middle of the field. Williams had no trouble moving on after the interception and making one of the best plays of the week.

Williams appeared to have a better day in 11-on-11 than he did during 7-on-7 sessions. In 7-on-7, there were some occasions where the QB was holding onto the ball too long.

“Sometimes it’s really good coverage,” Eberflus said. “There are guys who have been around and been with each other for a while [on defense]. So they understand our coverage concepts and how they complement each other, and they’re on point in terms of that most of the time. So some of it is that. And then we just have to turn it into a scramble drill. We have to make that real because we’ll have some of that [in the regular season].”

During a two-minute drill, Williams led the offense downfield for a field goal. The drive was boosted by a big completion to receiver DJ Moore, which pulled the offense into field-goal range.

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