As one high-profile Alabama running back prepares to launch his NFL career in Cleveland, his Heisman-winning colleague will be embarking on Season Two with the Saints, after a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign.
In 2011, Mark Ingram rushed for 474 yards as part of a rotation that included Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory. A late-season foot injury left Ingram unavailable for the postseason.
Now that he’s healed, Ingram wants more opportunities to show what he can do.
Especially on third down.
“I believe any way that the coaches need me to contribute in this offense, that’s what I’m going to do and that’s what I’m happy to do,” Ingram told the media recently, via comments distributed by the team. “In my eyes, I’ve always thought that I’m an every down back, an all-purpose back, a guy who can run inside, a guy who can run outside, a guy who can run routes and catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up yards for you, and a pass pro. I don’t label myself as a short yardage back or a power back. I think I’m an all-purpose back that can play for you on every down no matter what it is.”
But it’s not how Ingram labels himself that matters. It’s how the team labels him -- and more importantly how the team uses him.
The good news for Ingram is that quarterbacks Drew Brees believes.
“I expect great things,” Brees said. “He impressed me last year, coming in as a rookie. As physical a back as he is, he is not as big as you would think. When you watch him play, he plays much bigger. He had the injury last year that sidelined him at the end of the season but I look forward to having him healthy and seeing what that second year can bring for him in regards to opportunities.
“Every time you get past your rookie season, it is kind of like your introduction to the NFL. Now, the chance to take it to the next level and find your role on this team where you can fit in. He is a guy who can do everything. He is not just a down-hill power back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He is very smart. He is great in protection, picking up linebackers and rushers. He is smart and can make adjustments on the run. I love his attitude. He comes out with a positive attitude every day. He is fun to be around.”
The problem for the Saints is that there’s only one football. Ingram wants his, Thomas wants his, Sproles wants his, and Ivory will take whatever scraps he can get.
Every extra touch for Ingram is one less for someone else. And the various someone else’s likely want more, too.