Three days into his 12th NFL training camp, former Alabama All-American Mark Ingram was asked how he felt as the league’s second-oldest running back.
“They keep bringing up my age, man,” Ingram said. “No, I’m just blessed man.” I’m grateful. I’m still playing here. To be healthy, to have the drive, the commitment, the determination to do it at the highest level, I have no plans to – I know the game doesn’t last forever, but I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. …
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“I feel good, man. Obviously, just a lot of experiences, a lot of opportunities, a lot of years, successes, failures, all those things. I don’t feel like the second-oldest running back in the league. Who’s the first?
Actually, Ingram is the third-oldest running back on an NFL training-camp roster, but the two players older than the New Orleans Saints ball-carrier haven’t shouldered the load throughout their careers that Ingram has.
The Buffalo Bills’ Taiwan Jones, who turned 34 on Tuesday, hasn’t had a rushing attempt in the past two seasons, although he has been on the field for 515 special-teams plays during that span.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kenjon Barner, who turned 33 on April 28, has four rushing attempts for zero yards in the past two seasons.
Ingram, who turns 33 on Dec. 21, bounced back from being phased out by the Baltimore Ravens in 2020 by running for 554 yards and two touchdowns on 160 carries and caught 27 passes for 162 yards in 2021, when he played seven games for the Houston Texans and seven games for the Saints .
The Saints may have to turn back the clock in 2022 with Ingram, who joined New Orleans originally as the 28th player picked in the 2011 NFL Draft and is the franchise’s all-time rushing leader.
The Saints have an uncertain situation with five-time Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara, who could become subject to league discipline.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrested Kamara shortly after he played in the Pro Bowl on Feb. 6. Kamara, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Chris Lammons and two other men are facing charges of battery causing substantial bodily harm and conspiracy to commit battery after an incident at a Las Vegas nightclub on Feb. 5. Kamara’s twice-delayed preliminary hearing is set for Monday.
Under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, Kamara could “be put on paid leave if formally charged with a violent crime or sexual assault, or if the NFL investigation finds sufficient credible evidence that it appears a violation of the policy has occurred.”
After the NFL investigation and criminal proceedings conclude, then Kamara would be subject to discipline if he is guilty of a criminal charge or if the NFL investigation concludes he engaged in behavior prohibited by the Personal Conduct Policy.
“I try not to ever worry about things I don’t control,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said as New Orleans opened training camp. “And so, I don’t control that situation, so we’ll see how things play out and then we’ll adjust accordingly.”
While Ingram thinks the Saints have a “well-rounded running-back room,” the absence of Kamara, if it occurs, would seem to make New Orleans’ goals for the 2022 season more difficult to reach.
“I think we had a great offseason,” Ingram said. “Added some pieces. Continued to have our core guys and just added some guys that can help us be better, so super excited about what could be, what we could accomplish as an offense. Obviously, we’re only on Day 3 and got a lot of work to do, but everyone on our team, everyone on our offense, the coaching staff, we’re all on the same page and we’re all excited about what we can become this year. …
“We got Super Bowl aspirations. We got championship aspirations and nothing less. People can say what they want, but we are working here, we are grinding here. We’re meshing as a team, we work hard with each other, we take care of each other, we need each other and that’s all we need is each other. We believe in each other, and we’re just stacking these days. We’re stacking the reps, taking advantage of every rep. We don’t have to do this, we get to do this, so we don’t take the opportunity for granted.”
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The Saints posted a 9-8 record last season. New Orleans had a 5-2 mark, but quarterback Jameis Winston went down with a season-ending knee injury in the seventh game, and the Saints lost their next five without the former Hueytown High School star under center.
Winston is back at quarterback for training camp.
“Jameis is the guy,” Ingram said. “I think just his evolution as a quarterback in the league. I think his confidence in himself, his confidence in the system, confidence in his teammates, his ability to be a leader in and out of the huddle, on and off the field. He cares about his teammates. He’s smart on the field making the right decisions. Great arm strength. Has all the intangibles you look for in a franchise quarterback, so to be able to share the huddle with him is a great opportunity.”
The Saints begin their three-game preseason schedule on Aug. 13 against the Houston Texans and kick off their regular-season slate on Sept. 11 against the Atlanta Falcons.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.