Ingram striving to make early mark with Saints

Mark Ingram figures there no use dwelling on whether the NFL
lockout will stunt his growth as a player, and he downplays the
apparent tension that the Saints’ decision to draft him has caused
with Reggie Bush.

If anything, Alabama’s 2009 Heisman Trophy winner sounds pleased
with the way his pro career has begun.

At the very least, it’s been convenient.

Ingram was already living in a quiet two-story row of townhouses
in suburban New Orleans when he was drafted, and quarterback Drew
Brees’ decision to organize workouts at Tulane made it easy for the
Saints’ new running back to get acquainted with his new team.

”I’ve been meeting with Drew and a couple of the guys, just
learning the system and getting familiar with things,” Ingram said
before a recent workout with fellow Saints players. ”I’m really
just trying to get accustomed to them and just getting used to
everything going on.”

Because of the lockout, there have been no rookie camps, or
rookie signings for that matter. Ingram could have chosen to stay
away from player-organized team drills while awaiting his first pro
contract, but said he was impressed by the Saints’ veteran
leadership and unity, and wanted to be part of that.

”I really just wanted to develop better chemistry with the
guys, be out here, get ready, get to know ’em better and just get
familiar with the terminology and the system,” Ingram said. ”That
just shows you the type of leadership we have on the team – great
players, great teammates, great organization. And that’s why
they’ve been winning. And it’s just good that these guys have taken
the initiative in being great leaders.”

Ingram has taken part in seven-on-seven drills, catching short
passes from Brees and darting around defenders downfield. Although
coverage has been relatively soft and contact nonexistent as
players seek to minimize the risk of injury, Brees has been
impressed with Ingram’s work.

”He looks great. There’s no doubt he’s been working and he’s in
shape,” Brees said. ”He can play a pretty significant role on our
offense.”

Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards in 2009, won the Heisman Trophy
and led Alabama to the national championship. Last season, he
injured his left knee in preseason practice and missed the Crimson
Tide’s first two games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery,
then returned to rush for 875 yards on 158 carries.

He moved to New Orleans to work out with a personal trainer
months before the draft, and it wasn’t long before he encountered
fans who told him how good they thought he’d look in black and
gold. They’d seen the damage he’d done against LSU and the rest of
the Southeastern Conference, and wanted him on their side.

”People would ask me about it, like saying, ‘I hope you’re with
the Saints.’ But I never thought I’d actually be with the Saints,”
Ingram said. ”So it’s kind of crazy, and just the fact like it’s
only (a few) hours from our school and I’ve spent time in New
Orleans down here before, it’s kind of weird.”

Adding to the weirdness was Bush’s reaction shortly after the
Saints had used a trade to take Ingram with the 28th overall pick
in the first round of the draft. Bush posted: ”It’s been fun New
Orleans,” on his Twitter site, which quickly fueled speculation
that Ingram’s addition to the Saints would bring about Bush’s
departure.

”It didn’t really bother me. I didn’t take it the wrong way or
anything like that,” Ingram said. ”Me and Reggie, I’ve known him
for a little while now and he’s always been real cool with me, real
encouraging, real positive.”

Bush has since said that he regretted the Twitter post, that his
preference would be to stay with the Saints, and that he believes
Ingram will be an asset to the team.

Although Bush has chosen so far not to participate in workouts
with his teammates, he has called Ingram since the draft, and
Ingram said the conversation went well.

”Reggie just congratulated me, told me just to enjoy the moment
and that I deserve it,” Ingram said. ”It’s something I’ve been
working my whole life for. So everything with Reggie’s been real
positive and he’s been real supportive throughout the whole
process.”