METAIRIE – In the first full practice of training camp, Saints running back Mark Ingram didn’t look like a player who’s had two surgeries in the last 6 1/2 months.
Surgery to repair a turf toe injury and a clean-up procedure on his right knee in early May forced Ingram to miss the team’s entire offseason program, but he still reached his goal of being 100 percent for the first full-speed practice Thursday afternoon.
Even though interim head coach Joe Vitt said Tuesday the second-year pro would be monitored closely in the early stages of training camp, Ingram turned it loose and felt good about it afterwards.
“I felt a little rusty (Wednesday) in the walkthrough, but I’m knocking the rust off one day at a time,” Ingram said after a 2-hour, 25-minute workout that was moved indoors because of lightning and torrential rain. “We did team run and team drills, and I hit my reads and hit the hole fast. I was running through the hole with some power.
“It was very encouraging and it felt good to be able to get out there and run the ball again.”
Fellow running back Chris Ivory, who took things easy in the offseason because of a hamstring injury, also looked good Thursday, Vitt said.
“Mark looked good in the conditioning tests (Wednesday) and I thought they had a good first day,” Vitt said. “Now this is a process and this is the first day, but for their first day they performed very well.”
BACKING VILMA: Vitt and four defensive players were in federal court in downtown New Orleans on Thursday to testify for middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is trying to get a temporary restraining order to join the team in training camp.
Vilma has been banned for the 2012 season by for his role in the bounty scandal, but is asking to rejoin the team to rehab his surgically-repaired knee at the Saints training facility while trying to have the suspension overturned.
Linebackers Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas, safety Roman Harper and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis left the training facility around 1 p.m. to back Vilma and didn’t return until 4:45 p.m. — 45 minutes after practice began.
“J.V. asked me to do it, so I didn’t mind,” said Shanle, who noted that the players testified between five and 10 minutes each. “A lot of players and a lot of people think he’s been done wrong and the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. It was nothing major, but we all hope something positive comes from it.”
Also testifying on Vilma’s behalf were two former teammates — cornerback Randall Gay and linebacker Troy Evans.
HICKS HELD OUT: As expected, rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was the only player who didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice.
Hicks, the team’s third-round draft pick this spring, fractured his hand in organized team activities in June. Vitt said Hicks is expected to be on the field Sunday or Monday, but can only participate in non-padded practices for the first three days.
“We’ve just got to wait and see,” Vitt said. “It’s a long training camp and he’s going to get to play in some preseason games. So let’s not rush him back to the table. Let’s make sure he’s healed and see what goes on.”
EYE-CATCHING: Backup quarterback Chase Daniel was involved in two of the biggest plays of the day in team drills.
Daniel threw a deep ball for wide receiver Joe Morgan that he bought in over cornerback Corey White, a fifth-round draft picks, after completing a long pass to free agent Chris Givens, who made the grab despite getting his feet tangled up with cornerback Johnny Patrick.
Drew Brees and Lance Moore also connected on a nice pass as free safety Malcolm Jenkins muffed an interception, which allowed Moore to come up with the catch while falling to the turf.
RAINY DAY: When the Saints return to the practice field at 4 p.m. Friday, they hope to be working on the outdoor grass fields for the fans after being chased indoors by rain and lightning Thursday.
Practices that have to be moved inside because of weather issues are closed to the public.
“We were looking forward to getting out there in front of them today,” Vitt said. “We enjoy going to play in front of them just as much as they enjoy coming out to see us. But for their safety, we just wanted to make that decision as early as we could.”