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True Power

" True power does not need arrogance, a long beard and a barking voice. True power is attained with silk ribbons, charm and intelligence"

- Oriana Fallaci in "Il Divo"


The Disease

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Surviving Bipolar Disorder: BiPolar Disorder - Respect the Gift

Surviving Bipolar Disorder: BiPolar Disorder - Respect the Gift

The Saga Continues........

Montgomery is rebel with a cause



SAN ANTONIO -- Greg Montgomery Sr., an investment banker in Holland, Mich., called Greg Jr. on Tuesday morning. Having replayed a tape of the Oilers-Lions game Saturday night, Greg Sr. had decided it was time for a man-to-man talk with his son, the Oilers' punter and resident different drummer.

The subject wasn't going to be punting, either. Greg Jr. had averaged a whopping 50.4 yards per kick against the Lions.

"Dad told me he thought I looked like a hoodlum on the sideline," Montgomery said. "He was worried that I was starting to jeopardize my future, my opportunities outside of football, with my appearance. He didn't make any demands or anything. He just asked me to consider his advice, to take it for what it's worth."

Fair enough. Montgomery hung up the phone and dutifully squared off with the mirror in his dorm room.

He stroked his new goatee and gave a once-over to his wild, beat poet's-length hair, which he ties in a bun before he puts on his helmet. He examined the silver earring in his left ear and appraised each of the tattoos on his upper arms, plus the unusual one on his left shoulder blade that's a Japanese symbol meaning "double happiness." He got it in Houston last season when he met Kate, his girlfriend.

Montgomery thought about his father's advice and peered into the mirror again. He tried to be objective, to see things from Greg Sr.'s perspective. Really, he did.

But he couldn't. Sorry, Dad. For now, the goatee stays. So does everything else.

"I'm not trying to make a statement," Montgomery said. "I'm just comfortable with the way I look."

Oilers punter enjoys iconoclasm

Montgomery's appearance has evolved in his five-year tenure with the Oilers. As a tense, overwrought rookie, he could have passed for a boot-camp Marine. Then, he was Luke Perry cool, before Luke Perry. Today? Let's just say he looks exactly like a guy who spends much of his free time tooling around on a new Harley and hanging out at Kel Dogs, a biker bar.

"It gets me away from the football scene," he said. "It's a way to relax, being with people who don't know I play and wouldn't care less if they did. Those guys aren't outlaws, just down to earth. I don't want people thinking I'm an outlaw, either. It's just the way I express myself."

By mainstream, button-down, middle-American standards, Montgomery is well off center and off the wall. He's a throwback to an age when characters were the rule, not the exception, in most locker rooms, the Oilers' included.

Gregg Bingham once brought a python to camp with him. Mike Stensrud shot up a picnic area near San Angelo, sending teammates diving into the bushes. We could talk for hours about the eccentricities and antics of Dave Casper, Steve Kiner, Kenny Stabler, Don Floyd, Jerrel Wilson, et al. Each dealt with the NFL pressure cooker in his own odd way.

But if Montgomery is a flake himself, however you choose to define the term, it hasn't hindered his punting. He is closing in on becoming the league's best. He is a serious student of the art form, ever trying to refine and perfect it. Jack Pardee, who has seen everything in his three NFL decades, understands this and cuts him some slack.

He lets Greg be Greg even if it means a goatee, the tattoos and a team-leading repertoire of pranks and practical jokes.

"I've got more time to think up stuff," Montgomery concedes. "I do a lot of standing around."

When the rookies came in from practice one day last week to find their clothes and shoes floating in the ice tubs, guess who became the No. 1 suspect? He hasn't confessed. No need to.

Constantly seeks improvement

But his flippant attitude/appearance notwithstanding, Montgomery cuts no corners professionally. He's a thinker as much as a doer. For example, he keeps a detailed mental checklist he runs through before every punt. Having mastered distance -- 43.3, 45 and 43.9 averages the last three seasons -- he's working on improving his accuracy.

Accuracy? He wants more punts angling sharply out of bounds inside the 10. He wants more fair catches. Statistically, his goal is a 40-plus average net, never accomplished in the NFL.

"I want to take punting to another level," he said, "and not to be selfish, either. The more consistently I place the ball and the better my hang times, the harder my punts will be to return. That helps my team."

Montgomery held out last year and wound up missing the entire preseason plus the opener against the Raiders. He came to realize it was a mistake, from both a preparatory and a financial standpoint. He lost a game check and started off miserably.

"I'm so far ahead of schedule this summer, I can't believe it," he said. "I feel great."

Looks great, too, I guess. I mean, what's a punter supposed to look like?


The Aftermath - 1998

Kick-starting over; Ravens: Greg Montgomery returns to the basics with his punting technique in an effort to rebound from a season wracked by physical and mental difficulties.

The Baltimore Sun Jul 29, 1998 By: Eduardo A. Encina

Ravens punter Greg Montgomery entered training camp last week a changed man. The black-painted toenails and bleached-blond hair that drew so much attention last year are gone, but one thing Montgomery brought to camp is the desire to rebound from a tough 1997 campaign, both on and off the field.
Last year, Montgomery, who ranks second among active punters in average yards per punt, finished 10th in the AFC at 42.7 yards, lowest since his rookie year in 1988.
But it was off the field where the hardest troubles came for Montgomery. The 10-year veteran suffers from bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive illness, which causes extreme mood swings. He said that it affected him physically and mentally, especially during training camp.
"Every day seemed like forever," Montgomery said about last year's training camp. "It was hard to get out of bed every morning, hard to go work out, hard to eat. I was proud of myself to just get through last season. Now, I am more focused and can concentrate on my punting game rather than deal with that."
And his struggles showed on the field. His kicking lacked the consistency that he was known for throughout his career.
"You hear of other people that have it, like in baseball, where you can go down to the minors," Montgomery said. "But I didn't have that luxury. I had to play it out, and it was really a stone in my shoe. But now I'm feeling better, and it's not really a big deal."
Montgomery, 33, said his condition has improved with medication that he takes daily and by staying in good physical shape. Lifting weights in the off-season has raised his weight to 220, a five-pound increase from last year.
"It's all about maintaining my body physically and mentally," Montgomery said.
"He just wasn't Greg Montgomery last year," special teams coach Scott O'Brien said. "It was the consistency, getting the ball in the air and allowing guys to get downfield where he struggled last year."
Montgomery, who led the NFL in punting average twice while playing for the Houston Oilers, said that last year he tried to make his technique better, yet ended up hindering his performance.
"I am a perfectionist. I always have been, so last year I was trying to do things different," he said. "I tried to do little things to make me a little smoother, like tinker with my drop a little, but then I realized actually I was smoother when I just went out there and hit the ball solid."
To add to Montgomery's saga, toward the end of minicamp in June, he fractured his kicking foot by hitting a camera while taping a commercial, an injury that initially was expected to keep him on the sideline for four to six weeks.
The injury, combined with Montgomery's subpar 1997 performance, has prompted the Ravens to seek other options at punter. They signed free agent Kyle Richardson, a second-year player from Arkansas State, and held tryouts for free agent Reggie Roby last week.
"You just never know with an injury like that, especially on his kicking foot," O'Brien said. "But Greg came back early and we're taking it slowly so we make sure it heals right."
Montgomery is still rehabilitating the foot, but is kicking about 40 balls every other day in practice, a sign that the healing process in going well.
"The injury has been a real pain," he said. "It might have been a blessing in disguise though, because it gave me a month away from kicking and it gave me time to work on my leg and my upper body. As for the competition, this is a highly competitive game and this year I've prepared myself and I think my chances are really good."
Among his teammates, kicker Matt Stover probably sees the most of Montgomery on and off the field. Stover is his roommate in training camp, and Montgomery has been Stover's holder on kicks the past two years.
"He's made the adjustment to his condition," Stover said. "Sometimes when things don't go your way, you tend to doubt your own ability, but Greg is a very positive guy and he's really looking good in camp. He's attacking the ball instead of just kicking it."
As for his appearance, Montgomery still has several piercings and tattoos, but he came into camp with his natural reddish brown hair and no polish on the fingernails.
"That was last year and this is this year," Montgomery said. "It was fun. I was just messing with people, but I think I did it more as a way to take my mind off the depression, keep myself upbeat and loose. But either way, I'm never going to fit in."


Carpe Diem

     I know I have to do this. Reflect. Search for answers. Be honest. Raise awareness. But this shite really stresses me out. The drama. The old daze. What could've been.

     I returned home last night from a nice dinner w/ a couple friends at Andiamo's, an Italian bistro in Dearborn, Michigan.  It was 5:30 pm. Donnie Jones(punter) and Kyle Boller(quarterback), who play for the St Louis Rams, are in town to play the Detroit Lions on Sunday. I haven't seen Donnie since I coached him at LSU in 2004. This was my first time meeting Kyle. Solid cats. As expected, "Monty stories" flew around the table. Donnie had fun teasing Kyle about his various romances w/  Hollywood starlets. I winked at Kyle when I shared a few stories about Donnie while at LSU.

      As we settled into our dinner, I felt an all too familiar 'air' about the table.The night before a game. The pressure to perform. The constant checking and rechecking of the time. We were interacting, but the boys were 'distant'. Trying to relax and enjoy the meal, you could tell thier minds were busy. "What time's your meeting?' I asked.  "7:45" said Donnie. "Mine's at 7:30" quipped Kyle as he checked his phone for the third time. This really took me back. I've been there. I lived it.

       As you can imagine, anxiety is very common in professional sports. And athletes handle this in many different ways. Why the hell do we get so stressed out before games? This is supposed to be fun. You've got a couple kids making millions of dollars playing the game they love. And I get the all too familiar feeling that it's not. This led me to the topic of manic/depression and my desire to raise awareness of  mental illness. Bipolar Disorder. The importance of addressing the causes. Finding the gene(s). I explained to them that when I played, I did my best to block out the pressure. Pretend it wasn't there. But no matter how hard I tried, I always struggled with anxiety. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? For our teammates? For the fans,coaches, families or peers? As I shared my battles, I could tell they understood. They know. All the pressure. The money. The constant desire to prove ourselves. Wanting to succeed. Never wanting to let our teammates/coaches/fans down.

      The one message I tried share w/ them is that life's too short. It serves no purpose putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Getting up tight. Worrying if the coaches /management are happy with our performance(s). Relax and just do your job. Because that's all it is - A job. Let me ask you cats a question :

           "How many coaches, GM's have called me since I was cut in 1998? Fucking ZERO!"

       Go out and try to have fun. Anxiety is an epidemic, guys. Look around us.You can't watch 10 minutes of television without seeing an advertisement for some sort of new drug for depression. I tried to explain that we really need to step back for a minute. Look at the big picture. Realize that our minds are powerful. That we're in control of this. We have a choice. F*#k all the critics and just have fun. That's what I tried to do. I saw a glimmer in their eyes. I hope it helped.
      It's clear to me that in today's 'results driven society' plays a huge role in this perpetual  drama. Am I pretty? Am I too fat? Does he/she love me? Are my pants too tight? Reality shows, TMZ and E! If we could just slow down and get centered. We can't worry about things we can't control. It's fruitless. Give 100% and let the chips fall as they may. There's a saying -  "If you  have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you'll end up pissing on today". This really sums it up.  Focus on what you can control - the present. That's it. Freedom of choice. A choice to be happy. A choice to be sad. A choice to worry. My suggestion is to choose to stay in the moment and enjoy the ride.

Easy for me to say.

Carpe Diem