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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 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?

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