Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. Saints running back Mark Ingram said Friday his right big toe is feeling as good as it has since he injured it in New Orleans' Sept. 15 game against Tampa Bay.

But that isn't making it any less difficult in dealing with an issue that has kept him out of the past four games for the 5-1 Saints.

'Man, you know, it's frustrating,' Ingram said. 'You always want to be healthy. But you've just gotta take it one day at a time and make sure it's good.'

Maybe in a sign that he's progressing again, Ingram was jovial and joking in his manner two days before New Orleans' first home game in a month.

'I had a lot of time to heal, the bye week helped,' Ingram said. 'I practicedMonday, practiced today.'I feel like I'm finally getting over that hump. We'll just see how in the morning and go from there.' '

Certainly his attitude has been noticed by his coaches.

'He has been good,' coach Sean Payton said. 'He has been upbeat this week. I thought he has turned the corner. He has handled it well.'

The beginning to Ingram's season hasn't been a good one.

In addition to the toe injury, he averaged just 1.8 yards per carry in the first two games as the Saints struggled to run the ball. Twice against Tampa Bay he was stoned at the goal line, keeping the Saints from scoring a touchdown.

This marks the second time Ingram has been sidelines with a toe injury in his three years with New Orleans. While the first one his rookie season required surgery, this one did not.

And going through what he has with this particular injury has given him perspective on other players dealing with a toe issue.

''That big toe will sit you down,' Ingram said. 'You can do all the work you want in the upper and lower body, and if you don't have your toe ... it's everything. You can't walk if your big toe hurts.'

'I was one of those guys who was always like, 'Oh, toe? Come on, guy. But ever since I've had toe problems, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.'

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