David Montgomery is tough to figure out.
The Bears’ dysfunctional offense has clouded just how valuable he is at running back, with coach Matt Nagy veering from having minimal interest in the ground game to making it a priority. The offensive line has been shaky throughout Montgomery’s career. Quarterback play has been a problem, too.
It’s equally difficult to get a read on Montgomery’s personality. He showed up in 2019 as a soft-spoken third-round pick from Iowa State who appeared nervous and said very little to reporters. Then he blossomed into one of the team’s best talkers.
Last Sunday, after another dispiriting Bears loss, he made a passionate appearance at the postgame news conference.
“I ain’t got no quit in my blood,” he said — and vowed to keep the rest of the team equally determined.
But after practice Friday, with his sights on Sunday’s game against the Packers, Montgomery had almost nothing to say.
Asked about a challenging week in which he missed practice time because of injuries to his shoulder, gluteus and groin, Montgomery replied smugly, “Felt good,” then looked around for the next question.
That was how the conversation with reporters began, and it pretty much stayed that way. Here’s a sampling of his other comments:
• On how quarterback Justin Fields looked in practice despite a rib injury: “Good.”
• On the Packers’ run defense: “They’re good.”
• On how much treatment he needed for the injuries this week: “A lot.”
• On receiver Darnell Mooney’s approach to the job: “He happens to be really good.”
• On what he loves most about his job: “I get to play football.”
Montgomery wrapped up his five minutes by chiding reporters: “You all got to give me better questions than that. Thank you all. Next time, I’m gonna ask you all the questions.”
Like most everything else with Montgomery, the scene was enigmatic.
The media have largely praised his powerful, relentless running style, as well as his candor. Before the season, he enjoyed a rollicking news conference in which he challenged one reporter to bowling and humorously gave instructions on the proper way to eat a doughnut.
He even went so far as to thank reporters for how they’ve treated him.
“You showed me the utmost respect, so what would it be like for me not to do the same for y’all?” he said heading into the season opener. “That’s kind of how I look at it.”
It’s unclear what changed, but little has gone right for the Bears since then, and perhaps those stumbles have hardened Montgomery. The Bears got blown out twice in the first three weeks, Montgomery suffered a significant knee sprain in Week 4, and now the team sits at 4-8, with elimination from postseason contention looming.
Montgomery missed four games because of his knee, dampening his chances of a repeat 1,000-yard season. He had two 100-yard games before the injury but has none since — although he did put up 90 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving against the Cardinals.
He now has seven 100-yard rushing performances in 39 games, which ranks him 13th in the NFL since he entered the league. He also has 20 games in which he averaged fewer than 3.6 yards per carry.
A rushing attack requires many contributions beyond the running back himself, so it’s difficult to ascertain how great an opportunity Montgomery has had. Surely his stats would be much more impressive had he been drafted by the Cowboys or Patriots.
But Montgomery would be the last one to use that as an excuse. His quirkiness aside, the consensus among the Bears is that he embodies accountability, leadership and grit.
It’s why Nagy picked him as a captain for the opener and for this momentous game Sunday. In a season of turmoil and ongoing offensive struggles, the mysterious Montgomery is still one of the Bears’ most dependable players.