Teven Jenkins was trying to rally to his quarterback’s defense. In the third quarter Monday night, Jenkins took exception to the shove Minnesota Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum gave Justin Fields near the sideline as Fields scrambled and threw the ball away.
So the Chicago Bears rookie left tackle raced over to Wonnum to verbally express his displeasure.
Yet when Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson intervened and pushed Jenkins, Jenkins lost his cool. He threw a right jab at the side of Richardson’s helmet.
The end result: a 12-yard, half-the-distance-to-the-goal line penalty. Second-and-22 for the already-sputtering Bears offense. An angry shove of admonishment from veteran right tackle Germain Ifedi.
Three days later, Ifedi stood by his response, hoping his message would resonate with Jenkins.
“What you have to do in that moment is say, ‘OK, I don’t like what (the defender) did. But I have a lot more opportunities versus that player. And I have a lot more opportunities to impose my will against that player between the whistles. And do it the clean way.’”
The Bears have been mired in frustration for much of this season. They have lost eight of their last nine games and are 4-10, eliminated from playoff contention. They have one of the league’s worst offenses and can’t seem to establish any sort of consistent rhythm.
For a team with such a thin margin for error and so many cleanup processes already ongoing, penalties like Jenkins’ personal foul are inexcusable — no matter the intent.
Fields said after Monday night’s 17-9 loss that he appreciated Jenkins’ passion but hopes he can find better avenues to channel the support.
“I definitely love the mindset and I love him sticking up for me.” Fields said. “I think that’s what we need more of. But I just told him: I love it, but do it between the whistle.”
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Thursday morning expressed a similar sentiment in a much more stern tone. Jenkins, he said, should have known in advance his actions would cross the line. There’s a difference, Lazor emphasized, between rallying to a teammate’s defense and committing a costly infraction that was avoidable.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult to do both — to be protective and also to not get a penalty,” Lazor said. “I think it’s a very simple thing to do. I’d like (our guys) to do both. I’d like them to feel a sense of team and that they’re going to protect each other and our quarterback. I’d also like them not to move the offense backwards 15 yards.
“These guys have been playing football a long time. They understand the difference.”
Ifedi said his reaction to Jenkins’ outburst didn’t change from how he responded in the moment to how he felt once he saw the skirmish on video.
“Nah,” Ifedi said. “Because I was there. I think it was just tough love. He’s a good kid. We’re a close-knit group. So we can hold each other accountable. People can say what they want about how it looked. But we’re big boys. We’re asked to do a lot. And we’re all grown men — at least in our room. So nobody’s feelings were hurt.”
Instead, Ifedi stressed he was simply delivering constructive criticism with the hope the rookie will handle similar situations in the coming weeks in a different manner.
“On the offensive line, we can get aggressive and do it the clean way,” Ifedi said. “In that moment, in any moment down 14 (points) and you’re trying to move the ball, (it hurts). We hadn’t been finishing drives at that point. Now you get behind the sticks and there are no plays in the playbook that can account for second-and-22. … I love the aggression. I love the passion he plays with. And I love the kid. But in the future, we don’t want to get those penalties.
“The message I sent to him and what I talked to him about is there’s no good situation to cost the team in any scenario. No matter how upset you are, you can’t do it. Look, I’ve been that guy in my career getting bad penalties. It may look like you’re doing it because of this or that. But at the end of the day, it hurts you and it hurts the team. We just can’t have that.”
Gallery: Bears fall again in Monday Night Football
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields advances the ball past the block of offensive tackle Teven Jenkins as Minnesota Vikings defensive end Patrick Jones II pursues during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Chicago.