The tables have turned for David Montgomery and the Lions


David Montgomery remembers. How could he forget? He used to lick his chops before playing the Lions. Now he's salivating about playing for them.

"I’ll be honest, when I was playing in Chicago my first two years, I had the Lions circled on the schedule, like, let’s go have fun that game," Montgomery said Thursday after leaving Chicago for a three-year, $18 million deal with Detroit. "But playing those guys last year, I’m sure they had us circled."

When Montgomery entered the NFL in 2019, the Lions were headed for their second consecutive last-place finish. Two more would follow. The Bears were coming off a trip to the playoffs, and a year ahead of making another. It was a different day in the NFC North, part of a four-year stretch where Chicago went 7-1 against Detroit. But the Bears slipped in 2021, as the Lions started to rise.

Then came 2022, when Detroit swept the season series for the first time in five years -- and smothered Montgomery while doing it. He rushed for just 61 yards last season in two losses to the Lions, and came away impressed.

"Seeing the boys, the morale, you could tell on their sideline they have an infectious energy that each of them bring to each other," Montgomery said. "You feel it on the other side of the ball. And being able to see how well they run the ball, I’m excited about seeing those big guys up front."

How excited?

Montgomery smiled.

"You salivate a little bit," he said. "You get three Pro Bowlers on an offensive line and them having high expectations for themselves and me having high expectations for myself, it’ll be really good."

How good?

"I know myself. I’m just scratching the surface, if I’ve even done that. I have a lot of ability to do a lot of things that I haven’t showcased or I haven’t been able to showcase the last four years," Montgomery said.

This is the polite way of pointing out the obvious: the Bears' offensive line wasn't exactly a running back's dream. Montgomery also spent the last two seasons in an offense with a dual-threat quarterback who forced defenses to load up against the run. Montgomery managed to rush for 800-plus yards each of his four seasons with the Bears, but averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.

The Lions have averaged 4.5 yards per carry the last two seasons, behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

"To come here and play with a team that’s starting something crazy and being able to say that I can be a part of it, I’m blessed," said Montgomery. "I’m very excited to get in that offense that’s so powerful and dynamic."

Montgomery will add elusiveness and athleticism to Detroit's backfield. He forced 46 missed tackles last season, per PFF, which would have ranked first on the Lions by a wide margin. Aidan Hutchinson said Montgomery was one of the players who took him by surprise as a rookie, recalling a couple failed tackles where he was left with nothing but air: "He's like a little bowling ball."

Indeed, Montgomery will also give the Lions durability and strength. He runs hard and low to the ground, with every ounce of his 225-pound frame. He's taken 200-plus carries each of his first four seasons. He can be counted on to carry the load in Detroit, especially if D'Andre Swift's injury issues persist. If they don't, you might be looking at one of the most dynamic backfields in the NFL.

"He's nice," Montgomery said of Swift. "I knew about him when he was at Georgia, so I’ve always appreciated and respected his game. It’s going to be real dope to play with him and being able to say that me and him are in the same room. But yeah, he’s nasty, bro."

Montgomery, for the record, doesn't care what his role is in Detroit. He said he's "here to do whatever" Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson ask of him. He said he'll pass protect every play. He said he'll run gunner on special teams. He said "if Jared (Goff) needs some water, I'll give it to him."

"I’m just here to service the team and be whoever Coach Campbell needs me to be," said Montgomery.

The same team he used to circle, only entirely different.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau / Contributor