Sunday was his first training camp practice with the New Orleans Saints, 18 days after the team reported to The Greenbrier resort. And since he also was injured during the offseason and unable to participate in much of the team’s offseason program, his time away from field work – and building on the cohesion and momentum he established during his rookie season – actually was a lot longer than 18 days.
So while getting healthy and working on his weight and stamina, Jenkins has had plenty of time to think about what it means to be an NFL player.
“Nothing lasts forever,” he said. “That’s what I’ve learned. I’ve seen things happen, I’ve seen people come and go.
“I’ve seen situations become big and I’ve seen situations become small. So, I have taken that nothing lasts forever.”
Given that, the second-year nose tackle is ready to make the most of his time, and to improve on a first season in which he significantly was more impactful than the numbers (29 tackles in 16 regular-season games, seven tackles and his first career sack in two playoff games) suggest.
“I’m easing my way back in and trying to make things happen,” he said. “Going through this process was a big eye-opener for me and let me know my responsibility to get back here.”
And Jenkins clearly understands his responsibility for the Saints.
“My role in this defense is to free the linebackers up, take on as many blockers as I can (and) crush the pocket,” he said. “A lot of the things I do are taken for granted.
“People don’t understand the job I have to do. But at the end of the day as long as I’m doing the job I’m supposed to do and the stats as far as rushing yards and pressures against the quarterback show up, I’m happy.”
If he’s doing his job, everybody’s happy. But the first step to that is getting back on the field and getting into playing shape. And Jenkins, who said he weighs 347 but has been as high as 367 back at the University of Georgia – his preferred playing weight is in the 340s, he said – is in the process of doing just that.
“Short term first, being back on the roster and practicing is one thing, but we have to be mindful there’s a transition here, it is not everything right away,” Coach Sean Payton said. “He is in better shape. His weight is down. I think that is difficult sometimes when you are injured and you are a big guy.
“I thought he had a pretty solid rookie season and I am sure there are some technique things (to work on). From a snap count, he is going to be a guy that factors in and hopefully plays the role he did a year ago and makes improvement like all those guys are in year two. He is conscientious and is someone that learns very quickly, so short term-wise it is just getting him up to speed so we feel like he is ready to play in a game and he is strong enough in the area that he injured.”
Jenkins said that, like most injured players, he was frustrated while working out on the side as his teammates went through team drills and a preseason game.
“I’m anxious,” he said. “This is what I do for a living. I’m excited.”
Now he’s back at it full time, working to get in shape and to keep his weight in the target area. The latter will be made easier to do because he’s able to put in the work, he said.
“It’s not hard,” Jenkins said. “You just need to be disciplined. If you are able to move around, it’s not a problem. It all depends on if you are stationary.
“If you’re hurt and can’t do anything that’s the hard part, because your cardiovascular (system) is not moving (as much). Once you are able to move around and watch what you eat, it shouldn’t be a problem.”