Bears kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson still looks like more of a gadget than a running back. He’s trying hard and learning, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll become a productive full-time running back.
‘‘I’m a full-time whatever Coach wants me to be,’’ Patterson said. ‘‘Anytime I’m on the field, I’m full-time whatever. I’m always on goal. I don’t limit myself to anything on the football field. Whatever Coach needs me to do, I’m going to do. Safety, running back, right guard, left guard — it doesn’t matter. I just want to be out there on the football field helping my team win.’’
Maybe Patterson just needs time. But there’s precious little of that in light of David Montgomery’s groin injury last week. It was considered good news that Montgomery would be out only two to four weeks. But that still puts coach Matt Nagy and the Bears in a tight spot, with the season opener less than two weeks away.
The backs directly behind Montgomery on the Bears’ roster, Tarik Cohen and Patterson, are best as gadget-type players — more useful when Nagy wants to zig when the defense zags. But neither player is Montgomery. The running backs who might be able to fill Montgomery’s role, Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce, are unproven and lightly regarded undrafted players.
And with Montgomery expected to return in less than a month, the Bears’ urgency remains to be seen. When Leonard Fournette was waived Monday by the Jaguars, the Bears quickly were listed as the favorites by multiple oddsmakers to sign him. It has to be tempting if Fournette clears waivers, as expected.
But Montgomery’s projected September return and Fournette’s previous questionable attitude issues figure to be factors in that decision.
‘‘We like where we’re at,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Obviously, we like it more when David is in there, but these guys have really taken on their role and what we’re looking to do.’’
The Bears also re-signed rookie Napoleon Maxwell, an undrafted free agent from Florida International who was cut Aug. 2. Maxwell is on the fringe of the roster but not much more than Raheem Mostert — a 49ers postseason hero — was at one time. So nobody can be totally dismissed as a prospect.
But the Bears’ focus seems to be less on replacing Montgomery and more on making do until he returns.
‘‘Oh, man,’’ Patterson said when asked about Montgomery’s injury. ‘‘David, he’s one of the hardest-working young guys I’ve seen in this league. Seeing him go down, it was scary. We didn’t know what happened. He tried to get up, and he started laying down.
‘‘Anytime you see a guy go down, it’s always scary, no matter who he is. Hopefully he’ll be ready for Week 1.’’
The Bears notably went out of their way to acquire Montgomery as a ‘‘perfect fit’’ for Nagy’s offense. They traded Jordan Howard — a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, including once under Nagy — then traded up 14 spots in the 2019 draft to get Montgomery.
He didn’t look quite like the perfect fit as a rookie, but his 889 yards (3.7-yard average) and six touchdowns in a bad offense looked promising. Montgomery is one of several players the Bears hope will break out in 2020.
‘‘We love him; everybody loves him in this organization,’’ Patterson said. ‘‘I’m just ready to see what he can do for a year or two. We’ve got high expectations for David. Talking to him every day, he just loves the game. You need guys like him in this locker room.’’