After four seasons in Chicago, Montgomery walked away from a 25-42 career record with the Bears for a short move from the Windy City to the Motor City, joining the upstart Detroit Lions in a decision most everyone would've deemed inexplicable 24 months earlier. Montgomery had good reasons for his decision, though: He wanted a legitimate chance to win.
"That's all I was used to," Montgomery said of the Bears' recent struggles during an appearance on the Lions' new gaming and interview series, Lions Gaming. "And it got to a point where it sucked the fun out of the game for me because I'm a competitor. I like to compete. That's what football's about. It's so refreshing to be in a place where that's appreciated."
Yes, you read that correctly. The Lions, known for most of the last half-decade as a team that couldn't get out of its own way, are now seen as a club that appreciates and guarantees competitive football. As the NFL saw in the second half of the 2022 season, Dan Campbell's impact has stretched well beyond the scope of HBO's Hard Knocks cameras.
"My first impressions of meeting and talking to him, he's passionate about the game, bro," Montgomery said of Campbell. "He's a players' coach. You can tell. That was one of the things that brought me here and excited me, too, because I watched the Hard Knocks before I got here. And to see how he was coaching, bro, I was like 'yo, I can play for him.' He makes you want to run through a wall for him."
Thanks to a 9-8 finish that nearly saw the Lions reach the playoffs, Detroit is a hot destination. Montgomery wasn't the only notable player to choose Detroit in free agency, either -- the teammate he made these comments to, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, is another new arrival.
The two faced off in a game of NBA 2K23, with Gardner-Johnson leading the discussion with Montgomery while attempting to show his new teammate who's the best on the hardwood. The session served a dual purpose: Gardner-Johnson conducted somewhat of an interview with Montgomery intended for entertainment, and also got to know him better along the way.
Montgomery mentioned he was already excited to join the Lions before Gardner-Johnson signed with Detroit. Once he saw the former Saints and Eagles defensive back was moving north, he couldn't help but be happy.
"So I signed here, and when I saw you were signing here, I was like 'it's gonna get ugly,'" Montgomery said, drawing a laugh from Gardner-Johnson.
Gardner-Johnson posed an interesting question to Montgomery, who operated largely in the shadows while playing for a Bears team that hasn't attracted much national attention during his career: How many primetime games has he played in?
Montgomery estimated he'd played under the bright lights twice.
"I get to play in many more here," Montgomery said.
"You deserve it!" Gardner-Johnson replied.
It's May, so it's nothing but roses in sunshine around the NFL. The Lions will enter 2023 with greater expectations than they've faced in quite some time. With additions like Montgomery and Gardner-Johnson, they'll aim to prove the prognosticators correct, starting with a Week 1 showdown against the reigning champions.