GREEN BAY — Ty Montgomery lives in Wisconsin year-‘round. Whether it remains his NFL home largely depends on how healthy he can stay this season.
If he can, the Green Bay Packers wide receiver-turned-running back believes he’ll prove his value and his talent after injuries ruined two of his first three NFL seasons.
“I know that I can be a really good football player; I just need to stay healthy,” Montgomery said last week as he embarked on the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour. “It’s something I haven’t been able to do my rookie season and last season. Two seasons before that (in 2016), I wasn’t playing for almost half the season (before moving to running back). I’m looking forward to getting one full healthy season under my belt. That’ll tell.”
Montgomery, a 2015 third-round pick out of Stanford, has been productive and versatile when healthy. The problem is, that’s been only roughly half the time.
He missed 10 games and the postseason as a rookie because of a serious ankle injury that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve. He missed eight more games last season – after opening the year as the Packers’ starting halfback – because of broken ribs and a wrist injury that was severe enough to again put him on injured reserve.
In between, he was a revelation as an emergency running back in 2016, giving the Packers’ offense a much needed lift during the second half of the season both as a runner (77 carries, 457 yards, 5.9-yard average, three touchdowns) and as a pass-catcher (44 receptions, 348 yards).
With now second-year running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams each having shown promise last season while Montgomery was out with injuries, how coach Mike McCarthy will utilize him this season is unclear.
Speaking at last month’s NFL Meetings in Florida, McCarthy said Montgomery will remain at running back – rather than shifting back to receiver as his primary position – but that he’d like to take advantage of Montgomery’s varied skill set.
“Ty Montgomery is a running back. He’s a damn good one,” McCarthy said emphatically. “He gives us a lot of ability to play schematically any way we want to play because of being able to displace (at various positions on offense). He’s been there every day (throughout the offseason), working out. Looks great. I know (strength and conditioning coordinator) Mark Lovat is excited about where he is. I think you’ll see a bigger, stronger Ty Montgomery this year.”
Of course, McCarthy himself emphasized the importance of Montgomery staying healthy, pointing out at the NFL scouting combine in February that Montgomery has “had availability issues ever year.” In the eight games he played — including a Sept. 28 game against Chicago in which he broke his ribs on his first carry and missed most of the game — Montgomery carried 71 times for 273 yards (3.8-yard average) and three touchdowns while catching 23 passes for 173 yards and one TD.
“Ty is a very, very versatile player. He can do a lot of things,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the scouting combine. “I think having a guy like that (means) we can kind of plug him in where we need him. I thought he was an outstanding running back. Making that transition is not an easy one, and I thought he did it fairly quickly. I think we’re big on trying to acquire as many versatile players — whether it be on offense or defense — as we can, and Ty is one of those guys.”
Montgomery, meanwhile, knows his injury issues opened the door for Jones and Williams to assert themselves last season and create competition for touches this year – “We’re always competing all the time,” he said – but he also knows that his versatility gives him a leg up.
He also is acutely aware that being able to do so many different things would make him a valuable asset the Packers would want to keep long-term, especially with their other most versatile offense player, Randall Cobb, entering the final year of his contract, too. Then again, a healthy, productive season could make Montgomery an intriguing free-agent target for other teams as well.
But that’s something to worry about next spring. For now, Montgomery is focused on staying put – he and his wife, Remy, are expecting their first child in June – and showing he can tilt the field if he can stay on it.
“I know what I’m capable of. I know where my abilities lie,” Montgomery said. “Of course, I’d be really excited to do a multitude of different things (this season) – catch the ball, running the ball, return the ball, whatever it is, even if I have to block some more punts. I just want to make plays all over the field.”