Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. – A day after the Saints rushed for a season-high 177 yards, coach Sean Payton said they’re about to get a bit more crowded in the backfield.
Last season’s leading rusher Chris Ivory is set to return in two weeks after spending the opening two weeks on the physically unable to perform list while rehabilitating from sports hernia surgery and a foot injury.
“It’s coming,” Payton said. “It’s, like anything else, when you get to that point you deal with it. I know he’s in great shape right now. He’s healthy. He has been training hard.”
Despite playing in only 12 games and starting only four, Ivory led the team with 137 carries and 716 yards. The next highest total was 269 yards by Pierre Thomas.
Ivory’s return could mean fewer touches for those who began the season on the active roster.
Rookie Mark Ingram has become New Orleans’ short-yardage back and hammer, carrying the ball a team-high 53 times for a team-best 184 yards. Thomas has 27 carries for 136 yards and Darren Sproles has only 15 runs, but 134 yards and a team-best 8.9 yard-per-carry average.
For the past few weeks, Ivory has been doing conditioning work while trying to stay ready for his return.
Payton said Ivory is 100 percent and could have played this past week.
He made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010 out of Tiffin College. He earned his way onto the roster with a stout preseason.
When Thomas and then-Saints running back Reggie Bush were unable to play with various injuries, New Orleans turned to Ivory. He had a career-high 158 yards at Tampa in New Orleans’ 31-6 win against the Buccaneers.