Why’s it taking so long for Ty Montgomery to return from his leg injury?
Well, it might be because the Patriots running back isn’t actually dealing with a leg injury.
The addition of another vague layer to Montgomery’s situation shouldn’t come as a surprise. The versatile back appeared destined for a long-term absence after suffering an apparent ankle injury during New England’s preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. But Montgomery surprised many by practicing days before the season opener against the Miami Dolphins, with the Patriots eventually listing him as questionable with a knee injury.
Then, after Montgomery racked up 15 receiving yards and a touchdown in New England’s loss at Hard Rock Stadium, the Patriots placed the 29-year-old on injured reserve — reportedly due to a knee issue. Montgomery was spotted on the rehab field a couple of weeks later, fueling optimism he would be ready to return after his mandated four-game absence.
However, Montgomery didn’t practice before the Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns despite being eligible to come off IR and wasn’t on the field last week ahead of New England’s Monday night showdown against the Chicago Bears. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick denied an opportunity to offer a Montgomery update last Wednesday.
So, what gives? Mike Reiss of ESPN offered some insight in his Sunday notes column.
“Belichick wouldn’t reveal if the ailment that landed veteran running back Ty Montgomery on injured reserve after Week 1 is of the season-ending variety, which some might view as an indication it is,” Reiss wrote. “Montgomery had sprained his ankle in the preseason finale, and it would have been easy to assume he aggravated it in the opener. But a source close to Montgomery said the running back’s injury is different from the ankle, and something related to his upper body.”
Obviously, that update casts doubt on the chances of Montgomery returning this season.
And that’s a sneaky-big deal for the Patriots. While not a star player, Montgomery saw a ton of work during training camp and was primed to replace James White as the primary passing-down back. He was one of New England’s top performers throughout the summer.
Montgomery’s absence has resulted in an increased passing-game role for sophomore back Rhamondre Stevenson, who’s an explosive talent but still has much work to do with his route-running. Fourth-year pro Damien Harris also has gotten more work on passing downs, especially in the red zone. Results have been mixed.
Nevertheless, the Patriots have overcome the loss of Montgomery — and a generally ugly summer for offensive linemen and running backs — to produce one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses. In fact, you easily could argue that Stevenson and Harris currently form the league’s top backfield tandem.
New England will look for continued success on the ground when it hosts the Bears on Monday night. Kickoff from Gillette Stadium is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET.