LAKE FOREST – Up to this point in his NFL career, Bears running back David Montgomery has let his game do the talking. As a rookie in 2019, he could come across as shy during interviews. Even in 2020, he could be a man of few words, especially in the aftermath of a Bears loss.
Now he says he is ready to speak up. He wants to use his voice in the locker room.
“Just be more vocal, be able to stand behind what I say and allow my words to carry a lot of strength when I speak,” Montgomery said Wednesday after OTAs. “And that’s just gaining trust with everybody. Doing all the right things right all the time. You can’t be a half-assed leader. You’ve got to be a full-on leader.”
Montgomery spent the past two years learning how to be a professional football player, on and off the field. A year ago, he changed his diet, cutting out what sounded like an infamous sweet tooth.
This year, he spent the offseason working with speed trainer Chris Korfist, learning ways to improve his burst. For a running back who finished tied for fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,070 rushing yards, Montgomery is far from satisfied with his 2020 performance.
“I don’t think I was vocal enough, and I don’t think I left it all out on the field like I should have,” Montgomery said. “I think I could have done better for my guys around me.”
The Bears reconfigured their offensive line late in the season and that’s when Montgomery really took off. After missing one game with a concussion in mid-November, Montgomery returned for a Week 12 contest against Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
Beginning with the Green Bay game and continuing through the final five games of the season, he averaged 5.16 yards per carry, scored seven of his eight rushing touchdowns and surpassed 100 rushing yards three times (with a 95-yard performance as well).
“We got comfortable,” right tackle Germain Ifedi said. “David got more comfortable. And we’re just getting more comfortable now. We’re not even where we want to be. And I thought we had some pretty decent numbers in a lot of run categories. We know that we have so much ahead of us.”
The Bears hope to add a healthy Tarik Cohen into the mix, as well as free agent Damien Williams and rookie draft pick Khalil Herbert. Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall are two holdovers from last season as well.
First-year Bears running back coach Michael Pitre said he studied Montgomery’s film a lot. At previous coaching stops in the college ranks, Pitre would show his running backs film of Montgomery.
“I wasn’t surprised by the production he’s had throughout his career,” Pitre said. “I just think he’s looking forward to building off of that and has a lot of confidence going forward.”
In working with Montgomery now, Pitre said the third-year pro has a “high desire to be great” that comes across in meetings and on the field.
“The entirety of my career of being able to carry a football and do it successfully, I’ve had a chip on my shoulder,” Montgomery said. “But as it happens so often, from wherever I was then to where I am now, the chip grows. It’s no longer a chip, it’s been a boulder for a while now. It’s more so not about proving anybody wrong, but proving myself right, to me.”