GREEN BAY - He tried to come back once, and it didn’t work. And that’s why Ty Montgomery has the patience of a saint right now.
The second-year Green Bay Packers receiver doesn’t really have much choice but to have the best attitude possible about his recovery from left ankle surgery and accept where he is: still on the sideline.
Montgomery, a third-round draft pick in 2015, was off to a good start in offseason workouts last year and was showing promise in the summer. Then in the season opener at Chicago he had kickoff returns of 41 and 46 yards, and in the next game against Seattle he had three receptions in Green Bay’s early fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
He got his third start of the season in Week 6 against San Diego and was contributing with two catches for 11 yards before he suffered a high ankle sprain that knocked him out of the game in the second quarter.
During a frustrating eight weeks he attempted to come back — twice, actually, in November and again in December, with the clearance of the medical staff and athletic trainers. But Montgomery suffered a setback while trying to practice the week of Nov. 22 and never felt right in December. He said his ankle felt “loose.”
Montgomery's season ended for good when he was put on injured reserve Dec. 21.
“I did what I could to try and come back,” Montgomery said Tuesday. “I wanted to be out there. But it just wasn’t quite ready. I figured that out, so then I had to go have the surgery.”
Instead of joining his teammates in the most critical weeks of the season to support a potential Super Bowl push, Montgomery had to halt his rehab efforts, get surgery in late December to repair ligaments and cartilage and hope for better luck in 2016.
That’s why Tuesday, during the opening week of organized team activities, he admitted he wasn’t thrilled about still being sidelined. But he’s also resolved to getting the ankle healthy, strong and fully recovered.
“It’s definitely frustrating to not be out there,” Montgomery said. “Injuries stink and they’re not fun — but there’s positivity and hope in the fact that you’re going to come back. And that’s what you look forward to.”
Montgomery's determination to return to action impressed Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
"I give the young man a lot of credit," McCarthy said during the NFL owners meetings in March. "He’s a tough young man. Fought like crazy to get back on the field, and he’s been very diligent in his rehab."
McCarthy said Tuesday he had no “long-term concerns” with Montgomery’s injury.
Montgomery said he has been pain-free since almost immediately after the surgery, Montgomery can do some running and cutting. He said his flexibility also has shown consistent progress.
But the Packers have a checklist of the things they want to see him be able to do, and until he has marked off those boxes, he won’t be on the practice field. Montgomery has maintained his cardiovascular stamina from the stationary bike and been somewhat careful about what he eats so he doesn’t put on weight.
“(The injury) definitely makes it tougher to be in the shape that I want to be in, but it doesn’t keep me from staying where I need to be,” he said. “My weight has been good, my conditioning.
“I do my own personal body fat test (he pinched his waist and laughed). Just like we all look in the mirror sometimes — oh, I’m feeling good today.
“But everything feels great.”
Montgomery wouldn’t even venture a guess when he might return to the field — whether it would be next week, the June minicamp or sometime in training camp.
“I’m very, very confident, and optimistic, about the success of the surgery,” he said.
It has been helpful checking into the facility every day with teammate Jordy Nelson, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament — “you definitely learn how much he grinds” — but the injuries are different, and so are their positions on the team.
Montgomery is looking at a crowded receivers room after starters Nelson and Randall Cobb, with Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, rookie Trevor Davis and other undrafted rookies and first-year receivers.
“That’s not in my control; what’s in my control is getting healthy,” said Montgomery, who in six games as a rookie caught 15 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, carried three times for 14 yards and averaged 31.1 yards on seven kickoff returns. “And then when I come back, doing everything I can. I don’t make the decisions but I feel confident to get back on the field. I’m not really feeling that urgency, worrying about somebody else.
“Honestly, I haven’t had any problems with it since the surgery. I’ve been doing everything I’ve been asked to do. I feel really good, I don’t have any problems or concerns.”
All that’s left now is to wait.