Running back or receiver? Packers see Ty Montgomery as 'multi-positional' if healthy

INDIANAPOLIS -- The biggest issue with Ty Montgomery isn't whether he's a running back or a receiver. It's if he can stay healthy.

The Green Bay Packers still think the receiver-turned-running back can be a great player.

"But the great players, if [they're] not available ..." coach Mike McCarthy said.

"Then they're not great," general manager Brian Gutekunst said, finishing the thought during a dual interview session at the NFL combine this week.

Such is the question with Montgomery, who's entering his fourth NFL season but has played in just 29 of a possible 48 regular-season games since the Packers picked him in the third round of the 2015 draft.

"The two most important abilities in all this is availability and accountability," McCarthy said. "Ty, his challenge has been availability. He's had availability issues every year."

It was an ankle injury as a rookie, when he was limited to six games and eventually underwent a complex surgery. He played in all but one game in 2016, when he made the midseason position switch. The only game he missed was due to sickle-cell trait complications. He went into last season as the projected No. 1 running back, and the Packers expected him to run far more than the 77 attempts he had in 2016. But he finished with just 71 carries in eight games. He suffered broken ribs twice, but it was ultimately a wrist injury that ended his season.

Thanks to the emergence last season of rookies Jamaal Williams (153 carries for 556 yards and four touchdowns) and Aaron Jones (81 carries for 448 yards and four touchdowns), it might behoove the Packers to move Montgomery back to receiver -- where there are questions about the futures of Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson because of their high salaries and salary-cap figures.

"He's established himself as a multiple-position player," McCarthy said of Montgomery. "I think he's really gotten better in his natural run instinct. Obviously, what he can do in and out of the backfield is at a high level, and he's an outstanding special-teams player as well.

"And the two young guys, they don't have it figured out either. They both had to fight through injuries to play. That's why you need more than three running backs."

Jones suffered two separate knee injuries and played in 12 of 16 games. Williams was active for every game but didn't become a major part of the offense until after Montgomery and Jones were injured.

"Play time is really the reflection of availability," McCarthy said. "None of our running backs were available for the whole season. So that's the first hurdle, the first challenge that they need to meet. In Ty's particular case, his availability the last three years has been his challenge. But he's a multi-positional player. So he's a running back, to answer your question, but he gives us great flexibility to use him so many different ways. That won't change. We're going to need all those guys next year. So that's going to be our approach."