Montgomery ran for 1,070 yards last season. | AP Photos
After a breakout season in 2020, Montgomery could emerge as a star this season.
David Montgomery’s press conferences have gotten a lot more interesting since his rookie summer, when he stood on the practice field in Bourbonnais giving six-word answers while shielding his face from the sun and looking anything but comfortable.
Heading into his third season, Montgomery walks into the room engaged but relaxed. Nothing about this makes him nervous anymore. It even seems fun, if that’s possible for an athlete in a press conference. He taps on each microphone to make sure they’re live and then lets it fly.
He’ll joke — or maybe he meant it — that quarterback Andy Dalton tolerates his nonstop questions because, “he ain’t told me to shut up yet,” or take the conversation down a bowling detour that eventually led him to challenge a reporter to a game. The entire experience has shifted from arduous to effortless.
“Just simply experience,” Montgomery said. “When I come in as a rookie, you don’t know what to expect or what kinds of questions you guys ask, or how serious I can be.
“It’s a natural thing that happens. Once you begin to get comfortable with people, you open up and talk about things you’re not normally used to talking about. [Reporters] showed me the utmost respect, so what would it be like for me not to do the same? That’s how I look at it.”
The sentiment is appreciated, and seeing Montgomery so at ease as questions dart at him from every angle is reflective of how he’s grown as a running back, too. He no longer looks or sounds like a rookie. He doesn’t even seem like a young player anymore despite just turning 24.
Montgomery was one of the few offensive players worth noticing on the Bears last season as he jumped from 889 yards rushing as a rookie to 1,070 with eight touchdowns. He also added 54 catches for 438 yards, showing he was on his way becoming the multi-dimensional back the Bears envisioned when they drafted him out of Iowa State in the third round in 2019.
He managed those numbers despite instability all over the Bears’ offensive depth chart. Between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, quarterback play was problematic all season. They also used five starting offensive lines over the first 10 games before settling on one that worked for the final six.
“It’s definitely good to have that reassurance that you’ve got a group of guys that you’re rolling with,” Montgomery said.
It’s also helpful to get consistent opportunities, and that’s been a challenge with coach Matt Nagy. Every time Nagy talks about getting Montgomery 20 carries per game, it sounds like a great idea. But he has gotten that many just eight times in 31 games.
“I think it’s very doable,” Nagy said. “Getting him the football is a good thing. He can make a lot of people miss.
“When you’re able to get in that fourth quarter and you have the lead and you can hand the ball off to David Montgomery, that’s a good thing. Unfortunately we haven’t been in that situation enough in the past two years, so it’s limited him a little bit with carries.”
But Nagy is the play caller, so it’s on him to remain disciplined rather than abandon the run if the Bears fall behind early. He says he trusts Montgomery. He needs to show that by giving him the ball.