The role that Alvin Kamara assumed for a two-game period – injured bystander – isn't one that he was comfortable with, or ever intends to grow comfortable with. But it was a teachable moment for the New Orleans Saints running back, who missed the fifth and sixth victories of the Saints' current winning streak.
"I don't have a lot of experience with sitting and watching," he said. "It's a lot of times where I'm sitting and I'm like, 'I wish I was in, I wish I could have done this or done that,' or what I would have done in a certain situation.
"But it gives you a chance to kind of sit back and slow the game down in your head even more. You come back with a different type of patience and a different type of focus. It's good, but nobody wants to be out."
Kamara, the Saints' most versatile offensive threat, is back in. His knee and ankle injuries sufficiently healed, he'll be in the lineup Sunday when the Saints (7-1) play the Falcons (1-7) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"I feel back, I feel good," he said. "Practiced the last two days, I'm ready to play."
Kamara has been out of the lineup since Oct. 13, when the Saints beat Jacksonville 13-6. He started that game nursing an ankle injury, then picked up the knee injury during the win.
Two victories after that, and the bye week, gave him three full weeks to work on getting healthy.
"I felt (Wednesday) was an important day for Alvin," Coach Sean Payton said. "I fully expect him to be ready to play, and I thought he looked really good (Wednesday)."
That means the Kamara who hurdles defenders, who doesn't absorb a clean hit, who seemingly can't be boxed in, is back.
"I do feel fresh," he said. "I wouldn't say a benefit, it's like a downfall, kind of. I wish I was out there, I feel like I missed so much and yet, it wasn't that much. But I'm happy to be back, just happy to be back on the field practicing with my teammates, happy to be back like a regular, functioning member of this team. Because when you're hurt, you're kind of on the backburner a little bit. You kind of miss out."
Before his injury, Kamara totaled 373 yards and a touchdown on 86 carries, and 276 yards and a touchdown on 33 receptions. He leads the team in rushing yards, is second in receptions and third in receiving yards.
In his absence, Latavius Murray literally took the ball and ran with it. In victories over Chicago and Arizona, Murray totaled 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries, and caught 14 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time in Murray's career that he had consecutive games of at least 30 touches.
"It's going to keep moving," Kamara said. "It's a hungry team. We find a way to win, we prepare every week the same as if everybody is up. You see what we did when Drew (Brees) was gone; it's a next-man-up mentality. Latavius handled his business, as I knew he would. We've just got one thing in mind, and that's winning. So we find a way.
"I knew (Murray) could. He's a good back. He's done it elsewhere. He played in Oakland; Pro Bowl year in Oakland. I think it was just a matter of being out there and doing it. I think he felt good, I talked to him after every game, talked to him during the week. He did a great job."
Kamara said he anticipates that the workload will continue to be shared with Murray.
"Me and Latavius, I had a conversation with him early in the season, I think probably the second or third game," he said. "And I was telling him, like, the balance of the plays, it's going to balance out, it's going to eventually balance out. And he was like, 'I'm good.'
"I think it's an unselfish team. He was like, 'I'm good, I'm not tripping.' I'm like, 'I'm telling you, it's going to balance out. When we get down this stretch, it's going to be even more effective.' So however it shakes out, it shakes out. I'm ready. It's not like I'm selfish, I don't need the ball every play. He's fully capable, too, so I think we'll get a good balance going, it's going to be hard to stop."