Transition complete: How Ty Montgomery remade himself as a running back

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There’s not enough time in one open locker-room session, one 45-minute media availability, to get Ty Montgomery to fully detail everything he has done in the 11 months since that Thursday night against the Chicago Bears when the NFL world found out he was a running back.

Instead, things have to be discovered incrementally.

On his nearly year-long journey from backup receiver to starting running back, the Green Bay Packers' third-year pro has shared many of the steps along the way.

He studied the art of the blitz pickup from former Packers running back Brandon Jackson, who excelled at keeping linebackers and safeties from hitting Aaron Rodgers.

He worked with a coach called “The Footwork King,” who has trained the likes of Melvin Gordon and Le'Veon Bell.

He worked out at Adrian Peterson's gym alongside the former NFL MVP, Gordon and Joe Mixon in addition to visiting other trainers nearby in Houston.

Here was Montgomery, on the eve of another Thursday night game against the Bears at Lambeau Field, ready to reveal more.

“I did yoga,” the 24-year-old said. “I did boxing, swimming. Trying to think if there was anything else.”

It’s no wonder Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s biggest concern was that Montgomery would overdo it.

“He was very diligent,” McCarthy said. “If anything, Ty would be a guy you worry about erring on the side of overtraining as opposed to undertraining. He’s very diligent, very committed and obviously I think he’s done a great job preparing himself for the season.”

Because of it all, the Montgomery who will line up in the backfield Thursday night is not the same player he was when he was thrust into it last season against Chicago.

“We actually still had him tabbed as a receiver,” Bears coach John Fox said of that game. “But he played running back a lot in that game.”

Still, Montgomery looked more like a receiver on that first night as a running back. He caught more passes (10) than he had rushes (nine), and had more receiving yards (66) than rushing yards (60) in the Oct. 20 victory. Yet Montgomery says now that all he was really trying to do was keep Rodgers from getting drilled.

“Just tried to protect the quarterback and know my blitz keys and protect the football [and] just make the plays that are there,” Montgomery said.

Two months later, he dominated the Bears on the ground with a career-best 162 yards on 16 carries, including two touchdowns.

“By our second game late here at Soldier [Field], he had been pretty much relegated to running back and actually creased us pretty good with some runs,” Fox said. “We have great respect for him both on the receiving end of it as well as the running back. I think it’s something that has kind of evolved. I’ve been very impressed.”

It’s no wonder Montgomery could once again be the focal point of a Packers offense that will have to run the ball effectively to keep the Bears from coming after Rodgers play after play given that he’s not likely to have either of his preferred starting tackles, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, for this game. They were both listed as doubtful with injuries.

Yet through three games, the Packers’ running game has been inconsistent at best. Fantasy football players should like Montgomery’s three touchdowns -- two rushing and one receiving -- but the overall production hasn’t matched last season. Montgomery’s average sits right at 3.0 yards a carry, or 2.9 yards less than last season. A banged-up offensive line that likely will start its fourth different combination in four games hasn’t helped, either. However, he leads the team in receptions (18).

“I have not peaked,” Montgomery said. “I’m not at my best. I still feel like there’s more room. I can get better. I will say now that teams are treating me like a running back and starting to put more guys in the box. It’s different than when there’s less guys in the box and they were treating me like a receiver. ... It’s going to come.”

No NFL running back has been on the field more than Montgomery, who has played 23 more snaps than the second-most-used back, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott.

Montgomery is nursing a right-wrist injury, but he was removed from the injury report after taking part fully in practice Wednesday. Still, at some point McCarthy and running-backs coach Ben Sirmans might start to limit Montgomery's reps to keep him fresh for the long haul and incorporate rookie Jamaal Williams more often. But if they don’t, Montgomery might be built to handle it.

“It’s about durability,” said trainer Rischad Whitfield, aka the "Footwork King." “The way offenses are nowadays, it’s kind of hard to have a power back. People think of Le’Veon as a power back, but he’s not. These guys would rather avoid taking a big hit than get hit. It keeps them around longer. He knows that he doesn’t have to be super-fast, he just needs to get to where he’s going quick and he’s elusive and has quick feet just to scamper through tight spaces.”

For what it’s worth, the workaholic Montgomery claimed his next offseason won’t be as jam-packed as his most recent.

“I’ll find what works for me and I’ll stick to it,” he said. “But this first offseason, I was just trying to hit as many things as I could without stretching myself too thin.”