Saints players and staff prepare for the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl during NFC practice on Thursday, Jan. 25.
Orlando – There's no Pro Bowl award this week for Player Having the Most Fun, or Pro Bowler Livin' His Best Life.
But if there was, and New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II wasn't the runaway winner, there'd have to be a recount. Because nobody – emphasis on NOBODY – is having a better time than Ingram, who's treating Disney World as if it's Mark's World, and everybody else is just living in it.
He's the guy dancing at practice (like, breaking off a move or 10 for every 15 steps he takes). He's the guy smiling from ear to ear. He's the guy doing joint interviews with teammate Alvin Kamara, and hopping over the railing to dance and snap pictures with fans on the sideline at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
And he's the guy on social media – you name it, Ingram is on it – giving you the best, funniest, most hyped insight into the Pro Bowl experience and the best way to enjoy it.
"We're out here vibing," Ingram said. "Everybody's got family, friends, we're with the brothers, all your peers that you watch on TV. It's just exciting to be here, exciting to be in this moment. It's a blessing, I'm grateful and I'm enjoying every moment."
IN GOOD HANDS: Saints receiver Michael Thomas didn't need a skills competition at the Pro Bowl to show that, arguably, his hands are unrivaled. But he snagged the "best hands" designation anyway Thursday, performing a series of catches during the drill (one-handed, over the shoulder, toe-tap before going out of bounds) in just over a minute.
"Just doing what my coaches coach me to do," Thomas said Friday.
The second-year receiver caught a franchise-record 104 passes this season, set an NFL record with 196 catches in his first two seasons, and only was credited with two drops in 2017.
A WATCHED PHONE NEVER RINGS: Saints right Larry Warford wasn't expecting to receive a Pro Bowl invite, not after having been bypassed during the initial process. But when the Eagles won the NFC Championship Game, that took Brandon Brooks out of the mix and brought in Warford, one of the first alternates.
Warford, though, didn't know what to make of the initial contact call.
He was at a friend's house and because the Saints already had been eliminated courtesy of their 29-24 loss to Minnesota in their NFC Divisional Playoff game, he was making plans
"I was like, 'Whatever,'" Warford said, laughing. "I'm chilling, just going to go visit family, head out to Arizona in a sec."
In fact, he didn't even answer the initial call, even though it came from a 504 (New Orleans) area code.
"I didn't know who it was," he said.
When the contact was made, turns out the call that Warford had dodged had been from Khai Harley, the Saints' vice president of football administration. Warford said Harley simply asked, in so many words, if Warford wanted to go to the Pro Bowl – Warford's first invite.
"They called me right after that Vikings game," he said. "I had to pack up everything real quick.
"It was crazy. It was so last minute and I wasn't prepared at all. But I'm here now and I'm excited to be here."
Even though the invite was late, Warford, the Saints' seventh Pro Bowl player this season, easily was able to fit in. In addition to his teammates (four on offense), the Saints' staff is coaching the NFC team.
"It's a super easy transition, especially since I had such short notice to come here," he said. "It's easy to transition to here. Everybody has been real accepting of all the coaches and all the players. It's just a fun environment."
Warford is the lone offensive lineman from New Orleans, despite the Saints finishing second in total offense.
"I don't get into that," he said. "Whoever votes is what they voted. I don't look too much into that. I feel like all my guys are definitely deserving to be here. They played lights out and had a real successful season. But I'm playing for my team, I don't really care too much about all that stuff."
ALVIN THE SLAY-ER: Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara said Lions cornerback Darius Slay jokingly still hasn't forgiven him for hurdling Slay during the Saints' 52-38 victory over Detroit on Oct. 15. "I talked to Slay earlier and he was like, 'I still can't be cool with you because you jumped over me."