Ty Montgomery didn’t even have the Jets on his radar. He was considering other teams to join as a free agent, but Le’Veon Bell helped bring Montgomery to the Jets.
Montgomery wasn’t recruited by Bell. He just became very interested in the Jets after they signed the former Steeler.
The two play the same position and are somewhat similar players. They’re both good running the football and in the passing game. Bell is the lead back, but Montgomery will be involved. Maybe not as much as if he signed with another team, but Montgomery didn’t care about that. He wanted to join an offense that fits him.
When the Jets called, he thought about everything and said “it was a no-brainer” to sign with them.
“I’m not the type of guy that’s going to be, ‘Oh, he’s going to take touches away from me,’ ” Montgomery said. “Le’Veon is Le’Veon because of what Le’Veon can do. Le’Veon deserves all the touches that he gets. I just want to be in a quality offense. I want to be in a quality role. I want to be helpful. I want to learn. And an offense built around a guy like Le’Veon can only serve me better, can only help me, given my skill set.”
This mentality says a lot about Montgomery and runs counter to what was said about him 10 months ago, when he was vilified for fumbling a kickoff return late in the Packers’ loss to the Rams.
Montgomery was told to take a knee in the end zone but didn’t. It took the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands and negated a chance to win the game. Some former teammates, quoted anonymously, portrayed Montgomery as being all about Ty. Two days later, he was traded to the Ravens.
Montgomery was bothered that he messed up, and more so that his character came into question after one play. Looking back on it, he said it’s helped more than he ever could have imagined.
“The lesson I learned from that is I had to deal with something that I never had to deal with before,” Montgomery said. “I’m a perfectionist. I didn’t know how to take compliments. You could tell me I did 99 things great and tell me I did one thing wrong and the only thing I focused on is what I did wrong. I was a guy who always tried to do everything right. I was raised that way by my mom. So just a guy that tried to make sure I did everything right.
“My intention and my character came into question and the reasons why I even decided to bring the ball out became the topic of discussion. I was fighting a no-win battle. I’m not going to win that. No matter what I say, nobody’s going to believe that. I had to figure out how to deal with that darkness, find the light, find the positivity, find everything that I did right at that point and focus on what I’m good at, focus on what I did right and not just dwell on this one thing. It was a great learning experience for me. I’m truly grateful for it.”
The Jets are grateful that Montgomery was available. Adam Gase admitted he was surprised. Montgomery’s versatility should allow Gase to open up the playbook more, and he scored a 1-yard touchdown in Thursday’s preseason win in Atlanta.
In Gase’s offense, the Jets, who will host their annual Green & White scrimmage Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, will have many formations. Many could feature Montgomery and Bell together. Both can line up in the backfield, inside or on the outside, and when both are on the field, it could keep the defense off balance.
“When we got him signed,” Gase said, “the wheels started turning on offense as far as, ‘All right, what are we going to do? How are we going to use these guys? What’s it going to look like?’ So we’re experimenting with all that stuff and his versatility and his flexibility and his knowledge and he’s extremely smart. We put a lot on his plate and he’s able to play a lot of different roles for us.”
That’s all Montgomery wanted.
He came into the NFL in 2015 as a receiver out of Stanford, then moved to running back early in his second season and had a career-high 121 touches. He has 160 in the two seasons since.
Montgomery has 932 career rushing yards and 892 receiving yards. Now he gets to train with and learn from one of the best dual-threat backs in the game, giving the Jets one of the better one-two combinations in the NFL.
“I think we complement each other,” Montgomery said. “I’m more of a receiver that’s become a back and he’s a back that’s sort of become a receiver. Us being on the field together, we can line up anywhere. We can do anything. When he comes off, I come on. My mindset, the way I’m wired right now, nothing’s going to change, nothing should change. Our offense should be just as efficient.”
Montgomery and Bell have developed a close relationship. During OTAs, when Bell was training on his own in Florida, he was getting tips on Gase’s offense from Montgomery.
“Ty Montgomery was somebody I was talking to a lot,” Bell said. “Coach Gase, too. But Ty is a running back, he’s in the room, so he was like telling me the ropes and the protections. That’s how I was tapped in.”
That also runs counter to the notion that Montgomery is all about himself.
“I would send him notes and send him stuff that we’re supposed to look at before minicamp,” Montgomery said. “I made sure he knew what to expect, what we were going over, stuff like that.
“I love Le’Veon. We get along. He’s funny. I guess he finds me funny. He’s always laughing at things I say. But we definitely have respect for one another. I can feel his support when I’m on the field, when I make big plays. He’s been a great teammate.”
Now Montgomery looks as if he’ll be that and more for the Jets.
The expected starting offensive line of Kelvin Beachum, Kelechi Osemele, Ryan Kalil, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell hasn’t taken one snap together. It’s unclear when they will. The Jets are taking it slowly with new center Kalil, who came out of retirement. He could practice this week. New left guard Osemele also could return from a pectoral issue. Right guard Winters is week-to-week with a shoulder injury and Shell hurt his knee in warm-ups before Thursday’s preseason game in Atlanta. The line is improved but needs some time to work together and mesh. The clock is ticking. The opener is three weeks away.