As the Bears' top selection in the 2019 draft, Montgomery came in with high expectations. He earned effusive praise from coach Matt Nagy during the preseason and became the team's top running option by Week 2.
However, Montgomery didn't feel that he played to the height of his ability as a rookie, so he set out to slim down during the offseason.
"I definitely think that was a big emphasis for me this offseason," said Montgomery, "just being sure that I focus on my body maintenance, being sure I put the right things in my body and being able to cut some weight and being able to move a little because last year, I wasn't moving the way I knew I could."
Montgomery lost around five pounds in the offseason, now weighing in at 218. Montgomery attributes his slimmer physique to a newfound consciousness about the type of food he eats. While he partook in his favorite junk foods as a rookie—spicy beef jerky, swiss cheese and donuts—his new regimen focused on healthy eating.
This offseason, Montgomery gave up red meat, getting his protein from lean sources like fish, chicken and quinoa. He also focused on eliminating food that causes inflammation.
"I was a lot slower than I know I was capable of moving at," said Montgomery, "and it affected the game. I kind of let myself get in the way of myself as far as what I ate last year. I didn't really care. I was a rookie. I was just eating whatever, but now it's definitely a main focal point in my everyday life. It's just being sure I put the right things in my body so it can carry over to the field."
Montgomery rushed for 886 yards and six touchdowns last season, which made him the league's second-most productive rookie running back behind Josh Jacobs of the Oakland Raiders. While he, along with Tarik Cohen, may cede some carries to converted receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Montgomery still has the trust of the coaching staff.
"The biggest thing with him is probably his confidence," said Nagy. "Last year, coming in as a rookie, I think his expectations were set really high, which you love. And then you go through a season that we went through last year and there can be frustrations at times. But I'm just trying to be the best mentor and coach that I can be to him. We have a wonderful relationship. We have a lot of respect for each other."
Montgomery's approach entering his second training camp has impressed his coach.
"I like the way that he handles his day-to-day operations," said Nagy. "He realizes how important he is to this offense. I love his mentality. He's a hard worker, and I think he's eager to really go out and show what he can do."
The running game will have a different feel this season. Running backs coach Charles London said that Montgomery would need to adjust to alterations in the way the system will utilize its ground attack.
"It's new for him," said London. "It's a different scheme that he's probably used in the past. A lot of it is about training your eyes and trusting your path and trusting the blocks."
Montgomery doesn't see the system as an obstacle. He's only looking for more opportunities.
"As long as I get the opportunity to run it," said Montgomery, "and be able to be out there with my teammates and my line, and to be able to run the ball, it's pretty sweet. So the run scheme now definitely is great. Every run scheme to me is pretty good."