METAIRIE, La. – For parts of Mark Ingram’s past three years, injuries have played a significant role in his progress forward.
Entering his second season with the New Orleans Saints, he promises that he doesn’t feel behind despite being on a schedule where he practices one day and rests the next.
“Not at all,” Ingram said. “When I’m not practicing, I’m out there getting mental reps, in the film, studying the film. Just because I’m not physically taking the rep doesn’t mean I’m not benefitting from getting mental reps or benefitting from watching Pierre (Thomas) go through the play or (Chris) Ivory or (Travaris) Cadet or whoever.”
Ingram’s injured past started as a junior at the University of Alabama. He missed the first two games of the 2010 season after preseason knee surgery to fix what was called a minor injury to his left knee.
He finished that season with 875 yards and 13 touchdowns in the final 11 games.
A year later, the Saints figured they’d moved up in the draft to take a game-changing running back. But seven games into the season, Ingram bruised his right heel and was inactive for the next two weeks.
Three games later, Ingram developed turf toe on his left big toe, an injury that eventually forced the Saints to put him on IR before the playoffs.
And then this offseason there were surgeries to fix the toe and to clean up his right knee, the one he didn’t injure in college.
In spite of all of that, coaches say he’s on the right path. That assessment comes not just from this preseason, but from going back over Ingram’s rookie season.
“You spend the offseason and sometimes you get caught up during the season, but we went back during the offseason and when we were looking at the cut-ups, really we were pleasantly surprised with how well he ran the ball last year,” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said. “We expect great things from him.”
Ingram thus far has rushed for only 27 yards on nine carries this preseason.
But he believes this, his second season, will be better than his first.
“It’s year two,” Ingram said. “(I’m) more comfortable in the system. More comfortable with the terminology of just hearing Drew’s voice in the huddle, hearing the play call in the huddle and just transferring hearing the play-call in the huddle to what I’ve got to do and who I have to have and how I have to execute my assignment.”
The last time Ingram had a second season, he won the Heisman Trophy, leading Alabama to a national championship as college football’s best player.
When reminded of that, Ingram said replicating that feat would be nice.
“I hope so. I definitely hope so,” Ingram said. “I just want to get better every day. That’s my main focus. Come out here and get better every day. Be productive for this team any way I can. Help us win a championship. That’s my ultimate goal, to win a Super Bowl, and that’s our ultimate goal here.
“Whatever I have to do to help the team win, that’s what I’m all about.”