LAKE FOREST, Ill. – An unsettling feeling lingered over Halas Hall after running back David Montgomery slipped taking a handoff early into Wednesday’s practice. As Montgomery was whisked away on a cart from the back fields to the building – a long trek, necessitating the use of a cart for any injury – it felt like the Bears’ shot at any semblance of a run game in 2020 was leaving with him.
As it turns out, Montgomery “only” has a groin injury. “Only” is more in jest here than anything else – Montgomery looked to be in serious pain – but the Bears are relieved their 2019 third-round pick did not suffer a serious knee injury.
We’ll find out in the coming days and weeks just how severe Montgomery’s injury is. The Bears, certainly, hope it’s not severe.
But what if it is?
“You try to stay as positive as you can,” coach Matt Nagy said. “You don’t know, really, what the answer is and where things are at. … We talk about contingency. This is the year of the contingency (plan), so now this is one without COVID as an injury.
“What are our options? Do we like where we’re at right now, or do we feel like we need to go outside of the building? That’s all stuff that we’ll discuss.”
Without Montgomery for the entirely of team drills during Wednesday’s practice, the Bears alternated between Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce in the backfield. Or, to put it another way: A guy with 32 more targets than carries the last two years; a gadget guy practicing consistently at running back for the first time; a former undrafted free agent with two career carries; and a 2020 undrafted free agent who's only been at Halas Hall for about a month.
The Bears, as currently constructed, need Montgomery in 2020. Badly.
But their best-laid plans for their running backs should not be blown up if Montgomery has to miss time during the regular season.
“We're just knocking on wood hoping that he's going to be OK because we really think his future is super bright,” Nagy said. “We want to have a long career with him and he's a guy that you can give the ball to a lot and he's going to get a lot of yards and he's going to score a lot of touchdowns.”
So the Bears need to sign a veteran. And they need to sign someone even if Montgomery is ready for Week 1.
The options, on Aug. 26, are limited. The Bears brought in former Seahawks running back C.J. Prosise for a workout earlier this month but did not sign him. Devonta Freeman is the big name out there but he averaged 3.6 yards per carry for the Atlanta Falcons last year. Spencer Ware knows Nagy’s offense from their time in Kansas City but only had 68 rushing attempts the last two years.
Bilal Powell could be brought in to give the Bears 100 percent of the Bilals in NFL history.
But it feels like the Bears have to do something, unless they know something about Patterson or Nall or Pierce we don’t. If 2020 is the year of the contingency plan, the Nagy and Ryan Pace need to make sure they have a better one in place in case Montgomery has to miss any amount of time.
Even if that means someone like Prosise or Ware or Powell off the scrap heap. The Bears just need someone who's played more than a few games at running back in the NFL as a fail-safe. And as the team awaits further test results on Montgomery's groin, they need that guy now more than ever.