In training camp, when Ty Montgomery professed an affection for playing special teams, it wasn't unreasonable to look at the New Orleans Saints receiver a little sideways.
He wasn't talking about returning kicks, which he has done 55 times for 1,215 yards in his seven-year NFL career. He was referring to playing gunner on punt coverage.
But two games into the 2021 season, it's obvious that Montgomery wasn't blowing smoke because he has made a standout special teams play in each of them. In the opener against Green Bay, he fielded a 45-yard punt to pin the Packers at their own 5-yard line. And in the second game, against Carolina, he had a solo takedown on a 52-yard punt, arriving almost simultaneously with the ball to hold the returner to no gain.
He has been credited with two tackles and two assists so far, and the Saints (1-1) are hoping for more Sunday, when they play New England (1-1) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
"He's a good football player," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "He can run and there's got to be a little toughness there. I think it's one of the harder jobs in football.
"I think one of the harder things to do in football is beat a double team. He's one of a handful of guys that we've worked opposite of J.T. (Gray)."
Gray, a defensive back, was an All-Pro special teamer in 2019, when he tied for the league lead with 16 special team tackles and also blocked a punt. For three seasons, he teamed with defensive back Justin Hardee to give New Orleans one of the league's best gunner tandems.
Hardee signed with the Jets as a free agent, which left open his spot as one of the players flying down the sideline, converging on opposing punt returners. Montgomery comfortably has slipped into the role.
"I played it a little bit in college," Montgomery said. "I know I'm fast and I know I can make tackles. They told me this year I was going to play it, so – it's kind of natural to me, I guess."
Basically, Montgomery said, he simply uses his speed to his advantage. And he enjoys playing special teams because it allows him to do just that.
"Special teams, you just play fast," he said. "It's really just a lot of times effort plays. There's some technique involved, for sure, but on special teams it's anybody's play to make.
"I just play to my strengths. I know I'm fast, for the most part I feel like I'm a strong guy. I just try to dictate where I'm going to go, not let them tell me where to go."
That's what he did against the Packers and against the Panthers.
"Against Green Bay, I was able to peep the ball and I saw he wasn't going to catch it," Montgomery said. "I just tried to go field it rather than letting it hit and potentially bounce into the end zone.
"The tackle (against Carolina), it was a bang-bang play, something that we talked about. I just ran fast, beat my guy to the ball and took my shot."
His shots have been some of the best for the Saints on special teams this season. It's much easier to believe that Montgomery very much enjoys what he's doing.