FOXBORO, Mass. — Ty Montgomery already should have been penciled into your latest New England Patriots roster projection.
You can swap that pencil for a Sharpie now.
Montgomery has looked poised for a significant Patriots role for weeks now, and head coach Bill Belichick all but confirmed Tuesday that the versatile offensive weapon will have a spot on the 53-man roster this season.
“He’s been great to work with,” Belichick said before his team’s first of two joint practices with the Carolina Panthers. Ty’s been a wonderful kid to have around. He’s a very smart, multi-skilled, multi-talented player. Offensively and in the kicking game, I think he’s shown the ability to be competitive in a lot of different areas.
“We’ll see how it all plays out, but I’m glad we have him. Great to work with him, and I look forward to working with him throughout the course of the year on the team in multiple roles.”
Montgomery was not viewed as a roster lock after signing a two-year, $3.6 million contract this offseason that included just $300,000 guaranteed. Though he’s shown the ability to play both wide receiver and running back in his career, along with a variety of special teams roles, the 29-year-old has offered minimal offensive upside in recent years, failing to crack 200 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons.
The Patriots, though, seem to view Montgomery as a significant part of their offensive plans. He’s consistently repped with Mac Jones and the first-team offense since the start of training camp and, with mainstay James White now retired, could enter the season as New England’s top third-down back.
When the Patriots’ top offense closed out Tuesday’s joint practice with a two-minute drill, Montgomery was in the White role, catching two Jones passes out of the backfield and another while split out as a receiver.
Montgomery, who sat out last week’s preseason opener along with most of New England’s starters, also has returned kicks in training camp.
“I think there’s a lot of different things he can do,” Belichick said. “We’ll have to figure out how that’s going to play out and how to combine him with other players on the field, who else that is and so forth. But it’s nice to be able to work with him.”
Players like Rhamondre Stevenson and rookie Pierre Strong also could help replace White’s pass-catching production. Belichick praised Stevenson on Tuesday, saying the second-year running back has “done a really good job improving his pass game skills.”
“He’s way better than he was last year, and he understands that’s an important part of his game,” the head coach said.
Stevenson caught 14 passes on 18 targets for 123 yards as a rookie last season.
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