The guys at PackersNews.com give their predictions for the showdown in Minneapolis between the Packers and the Vikings. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – Early in his career, former Green Bay Packers running back Edgar Bennett played with broken ribs. He doesn’t remember the game, only the pain. Each injury is different, Bennett said, but that pain is familiar to anyone who has broken their ribs.
So the Packers offensive coordinator knows what running back Ty Montgomery will face if he plays Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings. Montgomery said multiple times Thursday his ribs feel good, but the flak jacket underneath his shoulder pads suggest they’re at least painful enough to need protection.
Should Montgomery be on the field Sunday, the extra padding around his ribs will force him to adjust.
“As far as that cushion,” Bennett said, “it’s a little bit different than without it. … There is some (difference) as far as the actual feel of it. You just have to make sure you’re fundamentally sound as far as how we carry the football, and I think he understands that.
“I think at some point we’ve all had to wear that sort of padding to make sure we’re secure in that area. So I think he understands that, and I think he’ll be fine.”
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Montgomery was listed on the injury report this week because of his ribs, but they did not keep him out of practice. He was a full participant Wednesday and Thursday, setting him on a trajectory to play Sunday.
Montgomery never played with broken ribs before, he said, but he wore a flak jacket in high school. The extra cushion could make ball security more treacherous, but Montgomery said it won’t limit his range of motion, or his usefulness as a receiver out of the backfield.
“A flak jacket is very normal,” he said. “It’s not in the way or anything.”
Based on this week’s practices, running backs coach Ben Sirmans said he believes Montgomery can be effective Sunday. Sirmans said Montgomery’s flak jacket can withstand the shock of a hammer banging into it, something that will be beneficial should his running back take a helmet to the ribs.
Yet Montgomery’s return to the field might not provide a clear picture of what the Packers' running back rotation will be going forward.
After rushing for 125 yards last week in Dallas, Aaron Jones gives the Packers flexibility to be patient with Montgomery’s return. Jones, the fifth-round rookie, proved he can handle the bulk of the workload if Montgomery isn’t healthy. Sirmans said he was impressed with Jones’ burst through the hole, important in the Packers' zone-blocking scheme.
Jones’ ability to change direction without losing speed is especially important.
“I don’t want to say it’s a rare trait,” Sirmans said, “but it’s very beneficial, because I’ve been around guys who have that same ability to where they don’t have to slow down. Part of it is you have to be a really good, instinctive runner. So that way you don’t have to wait for things to slow down and happen before you put your foot in the ground.
“To me, in this league — I guess you can say even in college — it is a great trait to have. Because the holes open and close so much faster at this level. That way, when you are running with the ball, you stick your foot in the ground, you’re making the cut.”
With Jones getting more carries, the Packers also have the option of limiting Montgomery’s playing time. He led all NFL running backs in snaps through the first three weeks, playing more than 90 percent of the Packers' total plays. It was not a path to preservation.
But the Packers could find value in Montgomery and Jones playing together. Whether it’s this week or another, Bennett said the Packers could eventually deploy two running backs in the backfield. There are enough differences between Montgomery and Jones to complement each other on the field.
“It certainly gives you more options,” Bennett said. “Going into it, we already knew (Montgomery) was an extremely versatile player, but we have a number of other backs that are unique in their own way. It’s a long season, so we’ve just got to continue improving in that area.
“I think all of those guys at some point will certainly contribute to our success this year.”