GREEN BAY — Ty Montgomery is in the unusual position of being the veteran at running back for the Green Bay Packers.
At this time a year ago, he was listed on the depth chart at receiver. Montgomery started working at running back at the start of last year's regular season and became the focal point of the backfield after veterans Eddie Lacy and James Starks went down with midseason injuries.
Now, the 24-year-old Montgomery - with 80 carries in two NFL seasons - is the unquestioned leader of the backfield. With Lacy and Starks both gone, Montgomery is joined in the backfield by five rookies - including three draft picks.
"It's really weird. I don't even have a full year at the position," Montgomery said. "I feel like I'm coming off my rookie year. I'm prepared."
Helping with that preparation is the return of a familiar face. Brandon Jackson, a second-round choice by Green Bay in 2007, is serving as a coaching intern. During four seasons with the Packers, he rushed for 1,329 yards, caught 110 passes and became a trusted third-down pass protector for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
With a 5.9-yard rushing average last season, Montgomery has shown he can run the ball. As a former receiver, his pass-catching skills are unquestioned. Where Montgomery has to grow is as a pass protector, a skill he had to learn on the fly last year.
"He's helped me a lot and he's helped me develop into the guy that he ended up being," Montgomery said. "He's shown me everything that he's learned and given me his mind-set and all the technique that he has."
At 31, Jackson looks like he could still line up and take on a blitzing linebacker.
"Pat McKenzie wanted to give him a physical; he thought he came back to play," coach Mike McCarthy said of the Packers' longtime team physician on Wednesday.
Jackson does provide something resembling a veteran presence in the Packers' green-as-grass running backs room.
"The biggest thing I told him coming into it, because there's no vets in that room, there's no guys with an extended amount of playing time, so I told him to pass that (experience) along to these young guys," running backs coach Ben Sirmans said. "And I told the young guys to make sure they take advantage of that."
Montgomery has worked extensively on pass protection during offseason practices. While the rookie running backs toil on special teams drills, Montgomery has been working on the side with Sirmans and Jackson to learn the finer points of blocking.
If Montgomery can master that, the sky appears to be the limit for a player who would have led the NFL in yards per carry last year had he received enough carries to qualify.
"I want to be great. I want to be one of the best," he said. "I know I have the potential to be great. That's what I feel. I'm not trying to sound arrogant but I don't want to shortchange myself. It's going to take a lot of work and I'm going to have to trust the process and handle the ebbs and flows. I'm not going to average 6 yards per carry. I've got to handle the ebbs and flows and stay consistent in doing my part and taking advantage of my opportunities."