Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP)

Packers running back/return man Ty Montgomery cost Green Bay the chance at a win on Sunday, returning a kickoff out of the end zone and coughing up a fumble rather than taking the touchback and handing the ball to Aaron Rodgers for a textbook two-minute drill. Montgomery understandably did not want to talk to reporters after the game, but at least one of his teammates did, anonymously blasting Montgomery and claiming he returned that ball out of pride and spite. Montgomery addressed the media on Monday, and he was not happy.

First things first: Montgomery acknowledged that the return unit had its usual pre-kick conversation, which included the directive, “if it’s in the end zone, keep it in the end zone.” But he claimed it’s not true, as alleged by that anonymous teammate, that he took the ball out because he was bitter about being removed on the previous drive and decided to make a play. He insisted, instead, that he wasn’t sure if he was standing in the end zone when he received the ball:

“I made a split-second decision, I don’t know if this is going to land on the goal line,” Montgomery said Monday. “So I’m not going to take a knee on the goal line, at the half-yard line and take a chance at putting the game in the refs’ hands. Unfortunately, I ended up fumbling the football. I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if I didn’t fumble the football because we know how good our two-minute offense is. But I’ve never been a guy to completely disobey what I’m being told.”

Montgomery is right that we wouldn’t be talking about this if he didn’t fumble, but, uh, he did. (And one reason to take the touchback is to make sure you definitely don’t fumble. Another reason is that it gives better field position than Montgomery would have gotten had he held on to the ball.)

But Montgomery’s on shakier ground with the assertion that he wasn’t sure where he caught the ball. Or, at least, if he actually didn’t know, that itself would be inexcusable. Football has worked this out pretty well over the years: A return man starts the kickoff by standing directly on the goal line, so he knows that, if he has to step back to field the ball, he’s in the end zone. Watch the play again: That’s exactly what Montgomery did.

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After the game, one furious unnamed teammate claimed to NFL.com that Montgomery had known what he was doing, and called the decision “a fucking joke.” That bothered Montgomery.

“We talk about being brothers,” he said. “We talk about being family and keeping things in-house, in-house, this, that and the other. That’s not what happened. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what they do in their family. That’s not what I do in mine. No one ever said anything to me. No one ever came to me. So I’m thoroughly disappointed in the speculation and just the backlash I have to deal with now. Because now, we’re talking about my character. We’re not even talking about the fumble anymore, we’re talking about my character. We’re talking about the reasons why I did what I did, and I’m not OK with that.”

The Packers are 3-3-1, just a half-game out of the cellar in a feisty NFC North. The playoffs are no sure thing, and one game is likely to be huge, so Montgomery’s fumble has outsized impact and the corresponding outsized reaction. (The lead headline on the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Packers section this morning reads, “Analysis: Many reasons to move on from Montgomery.”)

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But Packers fans are handling this whole situation far worse than anyone else:

“People are sending messages to my wife,” Montgomery said. “People are making comments on posts about my son. I’m getting phone calls, people offering their houses to stay (at) because apparently people are making threats online. I’m thoroughly pissed off at the state of humanity right now. That’s all I can really say about that.”