Saints RB Mark Ingram strikes back against malcontent narrative

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Mark Ingram #22
Mark Ingram (#22) returned to Saints headquarters to participate in the team’s mandatory mini-camp (Photo: Parker Waters).

What’s in a word?

Often times, words can speak volumes. Sometimes, they are empty, incomplete and even irrational thoughts.

All of these descriptions apply to all people at all times. When it comes to professional athletes and coaches, they are particularly applicable.

Mark Ingram has always been a stand-up guy, someone who has accepted his responsibilities as a player and dealt with media in professional fashion. No one debates his commitment to be the very best he can be.

Despite not justifying the sizeable investment made in him by the New Orleans Saints in his first three seasons, Ingram has always been a hard worker.

Over his last four seasons, Ingram has been the player the Saints and its fans hoped he would be, averaging 975 yards per season and 4.7 yards per carry while rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2016 and 2017.

After catching just 24 passes in his first three seasons, Ingram has 183 receptions over his last four years, an average of 46 per year. In his first three seasons, he had just 143 yards in receptions with no touchdowns while in his last four years, Ingram has caught passes for 1,285 yards and four touchdowns.

At the same time, Ingram has been the team’s best pass protector for Drew Brees among the team’s running backs.

Ingram has worked to make himself a good, not great player.

The suspension of four games for violating the NFL policy following a positive test for PED’s stung Ingram, who challenged the suspension and still disagrees with it. Ingram has denied using PED’s, stating that what he took was “permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL.”

Either way, the suspension stands and the Saints must move on for the first four games of the 2018 season without their leading rusher.

The issue is the one lingering item that could possibly distract if not derail a good football team with excellent hopes and great anticipation of a potentially special season.

Ingram did his level best to derail that possibility Tuesday, saying that the reason he missed OTA workouts was to workout on his own by working on some aspects of his game that he feels he can improve.

While that is still not in “team” mode, it was a plausible answer, particularly when he firmly denied widespread media reports that he skipped the non-mandatory workouts because he was upset with his current contract and wanted it renegotiated.

While Ingram is due a base salary of $4 million in 2018, he has a $500,000 roster bonus as well. Based on his productivity, he can be considered cap friendly to the Saints.

Ingram is coming off of his best season. He rushed for career-bests of 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added career-highs of 58 catches and 416 yards receiving.

Ingram’s leverage is his productivity, along with his work ethic. That leverage is neutralized by the fact that he is under suspension and is entering his ninth season in the league and turns 29 in December.

The mortality rate of running backs in the NFL is far less, in terms of years. The level of productivity by the ninth year or deeper in the careers of NFL running backs typically drops off, sometimes dramatically.

Of course, there are exceptions but they are exceptions, rather than the rule.

Ingram understands this as much as anyone.

He finds himself 764 yards short of Deuce McAllister’s franchise best total of 6,096 yards. Even with just 12 games, Ingram stands a reasonable chance of catching and surpassing McAllister. If he would have had all 16 games and stayed healthy, it was likely that he would surpass the mark.

Now, the question about Ingram’s future in New Orleans begins.

His play on the field has earned him respect and a likely raise. The question remains as to whether that raise will come from the Saints.

Teams have to make difficult decisions annually on player retention. The only four players in the New Orleans Saints Ring of Honor are Pro Football and Saints Hall of Fame inductees Morten Andersen, Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf. None of those players finished their careers in New Orleans.

Andersen, Jackson, Sam Mills and others were allowed to move on with money vs. potential productivity being a factor deep into their careers. All went elsewhere and were excellent.

The salary cap has had a tremendous impact on the league.

Iconic figures like Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning are among those who finished their careers wearing strange looking uniforms. Most recently, we witnessed Adrian Peterson in black and gold, rather than purple and gold.

While Ingram deserves to return, that return to New Orleans in 2019 remains a real question mark. In the meantime, it is a relief to know that Ingram will keep it classy, looking to avoid being a distraction and malcontent, defusing the financial discussion while looking to perform so well that he will reap a financial windfall at season’s end, regardless of where it comes from.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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