Just like every time he touches the football, David Montgomery was ready.
“Who’s first?,” he asked the room full of reporters.
The Bears had just lost for the seventh time in eight games — this time a 33-22 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field — but Montgomery was ready to take one for his teammates and answer some tough questions.
“Today’s frustrating,” Montgomery said. “The entire season has kind of been frustrating with the losses we’ve taken. But I’m a fighter. I’m never gonna stop fighting. I’m not gonna stop giving it everything I’ve got, along with the guys in this locker room as well. We’ve just got to keep churning.”
Montgomery backs up those words on every carry he receives. And if no one blocks for him, he’s going to fight like hell just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Nothing in Sunday’s loss was his fault, as the third-year, budding superstar accounted for 141 yards of offense on 21 carries and eight receptions.
If only the Bears had more David Montgomerys on offense.
“What you realize and what you learn stepping into a leadership role, or a point where people watch you, the things that you do happen to carry a lot of weight,” Montgomery said. “It becomes infectious. Your mentality. How you practice. How you come into work every day. How you treat everybody around you. Your character. And I take a lot of pride in that.”
The Bears have another player like that on the other side of the ball. He was out early Sunday morning in the cold rain testing out a sore right hamstring.
Shame on anybody — including myself — who thought Roquan Smith wouldn’t give it a go, rain and all. Three sprints half way down the field were all he needed. He was good to go.
"I showed up, I was out there so, hey, it's all good,” Smith said.
Just like Montgomery, you don’t have to worry about Smith showing up. Montgomery finishes every run and Smith finishes every tackle. They both play like they’re pissed off.
When speedy Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray slipped out of the pocket on 3rd-and-7 and tried to get to the edge, he most likely thought he had an easy first down. Murray turns the corner on most NFL linebackers in that situation.
But not Roquan Smith.
Murray only managed two yards before Smith got the stop.
“It was just basically a play where he got out of the pocket and I just basically chased him down. Yeah it was a cool play,” Smith said.
If only the Bears had more Roquan Smiths on defense.
The rest of Sunday’s loss was an indictment of where the Bears are at as a franchise. Their roster was outclassed by the current No. 1 seed in the NFC. The quarterback threw interceptions. The receivers and tight ends dropped passes. Penalties were committed. Headsets didn’t work. The other team scored more points — again.
But as reliable as those realities have become for a losing franchise, David Montgomery and Roquan Smith have become rock solid football players on each side of the ball. They provide hope for a hopeless organization.
“As you learn (in) the NFL, it’s all predicated off wins and losses. But in the midst of it, you tend to forget why you do what you do. You forget who you do it for,” Montgomery said. “A lot of times, you’ve got to take a step back and understand that I was a little kid playing this game. I started playing this game when I was a little kid. And you’ve got to get back to the basics of just having fun with it, regardless of how it looks.”
Ah, some light for a team lost in the dark.
“Even when it’s dark or as s dark as it may seem or as it may be, you’ve still got to understand that it’s still a game you’re still meant to have fun. And everybody in the world doesn’t get to do this,” Montgomery said. “You’ve got to take advantage of it and you’ve got to enjoy it while you’ve got it. Because it’s not forever.”
Montgomery went on to insist the Bears have a lot of players in the locker room who care. But then he put his index finger and thumb close together to show what’s missing.
“We short. It just this,” he said. “If you pay attention to the game, it just this. But when you realize in the league, that be the difference. You’ve just got to keep going. I ain’t got no quit in my blood. I’m gonna make sure nobody else in there ain’t got none in theirs either.”
There’s a difference between caring and playing with the same reliability and tenacity that Montgomery and Smith play with on every snap. They do the little things like most of the roster doesn’t. And they finish every damn play.
On a dark, ugly day at Soldier Field, at least the soaking wet fans in attendance could appreciate the play of two Bears who always show up, rain, soreness or otherwise.
As Montgomery said, they don’t have any quit in their blood.