Saints running back Mark Ingram spoke plainly on Friday about his ultimate NFL career goal: “I want to be the best back to ever play the freakin’ game of football.”
He’s fallen short of that loftiest of goals; but, to inch ever closer to it, Ingram entered his team’s preseason training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia having made this vow: “Don’t press.”
“I think sometimes I press because sometimes I don’t have as many opportunities,” Ingram said after the Saints’ seventh training camp practice Friday. “Sometimes I get in and press and try to make a big play when I should just go with the flow of the game and just make my read and take three yards or two yards.”
Ingram’s impatience is easy to sympathize with. After earning the only Heisman Trophy awarded to a player at Alabama and helping the Crimson Tide win a BCS title, the former 2011 first-round draft choice has shared carries with Saints running backs such as Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.
He also missed a total of 11 regular-season games and two playoff contests with foot injuries. Those are all reasons why Ingram is averaging a pedestrian 118 carries and 487.3 ground yards per regular season while scoring an unremarkable total of 12 touchdowns (including the playoffs).
Ivory and Sproles have moved on from the Saints; but, barring something unexpected, Ingram will be sharing New Orleans’ backfield with Thomas, Robinson and Travaris Cadet in 2014.
He’ll also remain part of a pass-happy offense that’s under the direction of quarterback Drew Brees, who’s thrown for the NFL’s most yards (10,339) and second-most touchdowns (82) since 2012. That means a multitude of touches will be benefiting players like All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham; wideout Marques Colston, owner of the Saints’ major receiving records; and rookie Brandin Cooks, the first-round draft selection out of Oregon State who was named the best receiver in college football last year.
Ingram, therefore, is fully intent on upping the quality of touches because he knows the quantity likely won’t be bountiful in the upcoming campaign.
“Just being patient, being confident and just going through my reads and just sticking to them” will be key, Ingram said. “Don’t try and press and make plays when they’re not there.
“The big plays will come — you just have be patient,” Ingram said.
The Saints had the option to exercise a fifth year on the rookie contract Ingram signed, but they opted against that. As a result, Ingram is set to hit free agency in March.