GREEN BAY – They were partners in crime on PUP, and returning to practice felt like getting out of jail.
Veteran tight end Jared Cook and second-year receiver Ty Montgomery spent a lot of time together through the first two weeks of training camp. They rehabbed together, ran routes together and got to know each other as new Packers teammates.
"He was coaching me up on certain things," Cook said. "Jordy (Nelson) was coaching us both up on things. We just grew closer."
All the while they kept asking which day would be the day. Finally, on Tuesday night, the door opened. They were taken off the physically unable to perform list and sent back on the field.
"We pushed each other every day," Montgomery said. "We fed off of each other.
"When we finally got the heads-up that we were going to be able to participate in practice again, we just looked at each other and laughed."
Both have been all smiles the last two days, to be sure.
Cook had been out since midway through OTAs, when he left for foot surgery, but in his first two practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, he didn't look like a player who missed any time.
He already has caught a handful of TD passes from Aaron Rodgers in red-zone work, a few times making a nice adjustment on a back-shoulder throw down the seam. Rodgers was the main reason the eight-year veteran signed as a free agent to come to Green Bay, and the early returns are promising.
"Aaron's in a league of his own," said Cook, who has never caught passes from a QB anywhere close to Rodgers' caliber. "I'm just going to put it like that. I'm not going to compare him to anybody, I'm not going to compare anybody to him.
"He's special, man. Y'all have seen it. I've seen it on TV for years. It's just different. That's all I can really say about it. It's just different."
So are Green Bay and its playbook. Cook likened the atmosphere in training camp to that of "being in college again," and he appreciates his new teammates and the passionate fans. He's also enjoying Mike McCarthy's offense, which helped make a star out of Jermichael Finley and is built for tight ends with this type of size, speed and playmaking ability.
"Big targets running down the middle of the field, to me it's a primary component you need on offense," McCarthy said. "His catching radius, you saw that last night. He gives us another big target. He fits the way we want to play."
Judging by the results in practice, Cook's chemistry with Rodgers appears to be on the fast track, similar to Montgomery a year ago when the third-round rookie made plays early and often.
Montgomery had been out since mid-October, eventually needing ankle surgery after multiple attempts to return to practice in the fall.
Green Bay held its tenth practice of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker, packers.com.
It was a long road back, full of false starts and frustrations, but Montgomery relied on faith and diligence to make it back.
Like Cook, he didn't waste any time, either, leaping to snare a TD pass from Rodgers on a bullet throw down the hash marks on Tuesday night. Despite the long layoff, Montgomery wasn't holding back, and he wasn't thinking about the injury while on the field.
"I needed a defense in front of me, and I just needed to run," he said. "Once we started doing that, I was comfortable.
"I did want to go out and push it, test it. I've been working every day up until this point, but what I did yesterday was more than I've done since I've been working to come back. I'm grateful for what I was able to do."
Montgomery sat out the tail end of Wednesday's practice just to cut back on his early workload. Neither he nor Cook knows about any potential playing time in the preseason opener on Friday, but one step at a time.
The first step was the most important one.
"There's no set amount of work I think I need," Montgomery said, as far as getting ready for the regular season. "I think I just need more, be with the guys, get the timing and the rhythm with the rest of the offense. Reps, that's what I need."
Added Cook: "It just feels good to finally be able to let loose and go get it."
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