Running back David Montgomery impressed early in training camp, showing off a new physique and fitness regimen.
After a brief detour due to injury, he's ready to get back to high expectations. Montgomery participated in Wednesday's practice in a limited capacity, which he considered a positive sign. Today, he practiced without restrictions.
"I didn't do much in practice yesterday," said Montgomery before today's practice, "just because I want to be safe, and I understand that it's a long season. I've got to be here for the long run. I didn't do much in practice yesterday. But I definitely feel I am a step closer toward being healthy."
Montgomery, who rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, went down in practice Aug. 26 with a non-contact groin injury.
"It was really just me getting warmed up in individual [drills]," said Montgomery. "My foot kind of slipped under me, and I didn't get my feet planted into the ground, so, unfortunately, I slipped under myself, and the injury happened. But injuries happen in football. It's about recovering and getting back to where I left off."
For a few moments, Montgomery feared for the worst.
"I thought I tore something, actually," said Montgomery. "Just how it happened, when it happened, what it looked like after it happened. Really just trying to be sure that it wasn't as serious as I thought it was. Luckily there wasn't a tear, so to the grace of God, I'm able to get back to rehab and training so I can get back on the field."
Montgomery underwent an MRI that revealed an injury less severe than he had feared, though it would limit him for several weeks. Montgomery has been focused on rehabbing and the potential to return in time to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Fellow running back Tarik Cohen spoke highly of Montgomery's recovery, predicting big things for the second-year player.
"I feel like the injury was a bigger deal in the media than it really was here," said Cohen. "He bounced back off of that so fast; it's like it never happened. He's already back doing the things you love to see him doing: running hard and making that first person have a tough day tackling him. I just see him having a great year this year."
While Montgomery is eager to return to full-contact, he's wary of rushing back from a lower-body injury.
"Your best ability is availability," said Montgomery. "With me, it's being sure I take care of myself. I'd be hurting the team more if I was to come back earlier than I was supposed to and continue to be hurt and hurt myself again. So I hurt the team, but I hurt myself, too. The biggest thing is being smart with myself, being smart with my body and being sure I communicate with the training staff and the coaches to let them know how I feel."
Montgomery has proved to be a durable player during his career. He missed only one game during his three years at Iowa State: a matchup against Oklahoma State due to an upper-body injury.
"I've never dealt with a groin injury," said Montgomery, "let alone injuries in general. I'm not really big on injuries."