Packers see 'bigger, stronger' (and healthier?) Ty Montgomery

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This is Ty Montgomery’s career, and he doesn’t shy away from it:

  • 2015: Missed 10 games plus the playoffs because of a major ankle injury and finished the season on injured reserve.

  • 2016: Played in all but one game but was buried on the depth chart at receiver before a midseason switch to running back.

  • 2017: Missed eight games because of rib and wrist injuries after winning the starting running back job and finished on IR.

“I know that I can be a really good football player; I just need to stay healthy,” Montgomery said this week as he took part in the Green Bay Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour. “It’s something I haven’t been able to do my rookie season and last season. Two seasons before that, I wasn’t playing for almost half the season. I’m looking forward to getting one full healthy season under my belt. That’ll tell.”

Safe to say it hasn’t been an easy road for the third-round pick from Stanford, who has played in just 32 of a possible 53 career games (including playoffs).

Not long ago, he was making a major position switch.

Now he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract with plenty to prove -- and plenty of competition to fend off.

After Montgomery’s injuries last season, rookie running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones took turns as the Packers’ No. 1 back. Both made perhaps stronger cases than Montgomery to go into the offseason as the starter. Still, Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes running back still should be Montgomery’s primary position.

While Montgomery spent part of last offseason working out with different trainers, coaches and even Adrian Peterson at Peterson's personal gym to refine his running back skills, this winter Montgomery dedicated himself to staying in Green Bay to work out with Packers strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Lovat.

“He’s been there every day, too,” McCarthy said recently. “Looks great. I know Mark Lovat is excited about where he is. I think you’ll see a bigger, stronger Ty Montgomery this year.”

Montgomery wouldn’t say whether he has added bulk or picked up strength. Nor would he share any of his goals for 2018. But he has to know it’s a critical year to prove he can handle a bigger workload. After he carried 77 times and averaged a remarkable 5.9 yards per attempt during his conversion season of 2016, he insisted he could run twice that much the following year. Instead, he carried only 71 times last season and averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, Williams posted a team-best 556 yards rushing along with four touchdowns, while Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry and matched Williams’ four scores -- including a game-winning 20-yard run in overtime to beat the Buccaneers.

“I think it’s pretty apparent, with what they were able to do last season after I went out,” Montgomery said. “Then, with what I’ve shown to be able to do, I think it’s really apparent how good we can be.”

While McCarthy has to like the depth he has at running back, he still has durability questions about all of his backs. Williams and Jones both dealt with knee injuries last season.

“That's why you need more than three running backs,” McCarthy said.

At different points last season, the Packers fielded lineups with three running backs. A fourth, Devante Mays, also played in emergency duty even though the rookie seventh-round pick probably wasn’t ready. It could lead to a wide-open competition this preseason -- and beyond.

“I don’t think guys would be in that room if they weren’t competitive,” Montgomery said. “Even if a starter had been named, we’re always competing all the time, because when your number is called, just because you’re not the starter doesn’t mean you can’t score touchdowns and you can’t make plays. It’s all about winning football games and doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re called on.”