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David Onyemata, Mark Ingram set to make returns for New Orleans Saints on Sunday

'Being away for so long, you don't realize how much you kind of miss being around the system and the guys'

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Defensive tackle David Onyemata missed the last six regular-season games the New Orleans Saints have played. Running back Mark Ingram II, the last 38.

Each will be a welcome addition in his return Sunday, when the Saints (4-2) play Tampa Bay (6-1) in the Caesars Superdome, with the winner owning first place in the NFC South Division.

Onyemata, arguably, the Saints' best defensive lineman, served an NFL suspension for the first six games this season. And while New Orleans defense functioned admirably in his absence – second in the league in points (16.8), third in rushing yards (80.8), seventh in total yards (331.5) allowed per game, and first in red zone defense (5 for 14) – Onyemata presents a presence that was noticeably absent.

"Well, Onyemata is a really good player," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "He gives us an inside presence in the run and pass game. Certainly, he'll be a welcomed addition to the group.

"He hasn't played football in seven weeks and really a little longer than that since we didn't get to play the last preseason game. It's been a while since he's been out there so he'll be a guy we have to get in the flow a little bit and see what we can get out of him."

"I mean, the presence David brings, what he has done in the last half decade being on this team," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "Not only his strength, his force, but just his mind-set of wanting to play the run and getting better every day. It matches exactly what we're doing on the D-line. So he was a huge component for us. And super excited to have him back.

"When you have a physical presence such as (Onyemata) on the field, somebody who has created pressure from the middle, somebody who has not allowed quarterbacks to step up and is smart enough and savvy enough to do what he has been able to accomplish the last couple of years, you can get excited. We won't know until we get to the field how ready we are. But I have a very good feeling about Sunday."

Onyemata, too, has had a good feeling in practice this week. Jordan said the usually quiet Onyemata was unusually chatty Thursday.

"It feels awesome, being back with the guys, being able to be out there on the field with them feels really good," Onyemata said. "Being away for so long, you don't realize how much you kind of miss being around the system and the guys. From the get-go, you might take that for granted, but it actually feels good."

Ingram, who with 6,007 yards is 90 yards from becoming the Saints' all-time leading rusher, departed as a free agent in 2019, and played seven games for the Texans this season before being traded to the Saints this week. He hit the ground running in practice.

He said he didn't anticipate a move this season, but was pleased when he received word of the Saints' interest.

"It was crazy," said Ingram, who also is the Saints' all-time leader with 50 rushing touchdowns. "I didn't expect anything to happen. The trade deadline is in a week (Nov. 2), and I didn't anticipate being traded.

"I appreciate the Texans for being transparent and honest with me. They said the Saints called and they inquired about me and they want me, and they said that if it was any other team, this wouldn't even be a discussion. But out of respect for me and what I've done throughout my career and how I started here, they wanted to give me the option to make a decision and just let me sleep on it.

"(The Texans) gave me a chance. They believed in me. But to be able to have the opportunity to go back home where I started, and be able to help them fight for a championship is almost something that I couldn't pass up."

Back to McNorleans.

"My kids, they were born here, the first three," Ingram said. "I'm like, listen, I'm going to take you guys on a trip. You can go anywhere you want. Anywhere. They're like, 'Daddy, I want to go to McNorleans.' I'm like, McNorleans? I'm like, it's New Orleans.

"They're like, 'I wanna go to McNorleans.' I'm like, you guys were born there, you can go anywhere. They're like, 'I wanna go to McNorleans.' So, I told them, 'Daddy's going back to McNorleans. I'm about to go play for New Orleans.' "

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