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Bears RB David Montgomery comes into his own as runner, talker

After a breakout season in 2020, Montgomery could emerge as a star this year.

Montgomery ran for 1,070 yards last season.
AP Photos

David Montgomery’s news 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 news conference. He taps on the microphones to make sure they’re live, 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 steer the conversation into a bowling detour that eventually leads 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.”

Seeing Montgomery so at ease as questions dart at him from every angle is reflective of how he has 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 rushing yards as a rookie to 1,070 with eight touchdowns. He also added 54 catches for 438 yards, showing he was on his way to 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 in the first 10 games before settling on one that worked for the last 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 has 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 only 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 last two years, so it has 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.