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Ty Montgomery is a running back for good, says Packers coach Mike McCarthy

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Number 88 should be vacant again next season, as the position switch made in 2016 will be made permanent this offseason.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-New York Giants at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more bizarre storylines around the 2016 Green Bay Packers was Ty Montgomery’s move from wide receiver to running back. The team’s leading rusher this season of course wore number 88 and spent most of his offseason preparing to be a wide receiver and recovering from a brutal ankle injury suffered in 2015.

When training camp concluded, however, the Packers chose to shift Montgomery to more of a full-time running back role. Head coach Mike McCarthy gave his final press conference of the 2016 season on Thursday and noted that “we were fortunate we made that decision at the end of training camp to get Ty ready.” Fortunate, indeed; when Eddie Lacy and James Starks both went down with injuries, Montgomery stepped in to lead the way with 457 rushing yards, running for 5.9 yards per carry during the regular season.

However, there is no question about where his future lies with the Packers moving forward: “He’s a running back,” McCarthy said; “He wants to change his number and that’s the way we’re going. He’ll spend the whole offseason working at the running back position.”

That clarity will likely help the Packers front office decide on how to address the running back position this offseason. Montgomery and James Starks are the only two tailbacks who are currently under contract for 2017, and Starks is no guarantee to return, either; therefore, Ted Thompson will likely be bringing in - or bringing back - a couple backs to compete with or to back up Montgomery.

One option is of course Eddie Lacy, who enters free agency for the first time this March after the expiration of his rookie contract. McCarthy said he would “love to see Eddie back,” but that the big back is “going through a medical situation and we understand his contract situation.” The injury that landed him on injured reserve early in 2016 will be the biggest hurdle, and it seems that it will be a heavily-determining factor as to Lacy’s potential return.

Along with Lacy, Christine Michael is an unrestricted free agent; meanwhile, young backs John Crockett and Don Jackson (who both ended the year on injured reserve) are scheduled to be exclusive-rights free agents.

McCarthy was not asked and did not say whether he envisions Montgomery being a featured back or a complementary player, however; that evaluation would likely take place in the coming weeks, and will also affect how the front office proceeds. Adding to his value is his versatility, specifically his ability to “flex out and play receiver,” as McCarthy mentioned. “That will be his secondary responsibility, but on the depth chart he’ll be a running back.”

Expect to see jersey number 88 outside the backfield full-time again in the summer, when the Packers retake the field for practice; it will just be someone not named Ty Montgomery wearing it.