His NFL-mandated suspension ended, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram was so eager to see his teammates that he met them at the airport upon their arrival from Sunday’s road victory over the New York Giants.
In turn, the Saints got a chance to look at Ingram, too. And there wasn’t much to not like then, or since he has returned to the Ochsner Sports Performance Center to join his teammates, who compiled a 3-1 record in his absence entering their game against Washington on "Monday Night Football" in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“He looks ready,” left tackle Terron Armstead said. “He’s ready to roll. Everybody’s excited to see him. He’s ready.
“Mark is a guy that’s loved by the entire locker room, the entire organization. It’s just his energy that he brings, his positivity that he brings to the team. His energy is contagious.”
“I think everybody was just happy to see him,” linebacker Demario Davis said. “He’s a huge part of our team and where we’re trying to go. We were just really trying to keep the ship right until we got him back. It’s a huge addition to have him back to the team.”
Coach Sean Payton said there was little reason to believe that Ingram, who posted career highs in rushing attempts (230), rushing yards (1,124) and rushing touchdowns (12) last season, wouldn’t be ready to hit the ground running.
“He looks fine,” Payton said. “I’m sure he stayed busy. He wasn’t gone for a year-and-a-half or been a castaway on an island. He was four weeks. He’s in good shape.”
The jubilation likely was heightened by the fact that the reunion took place after the Saints’ 33-18 victory over the Giants, the third straight win for New Orleans, which lifted it into sole possession of first place in the NFC South Division.
“Guys were excited,” Payton said. “You come off a win like that and you get one of your guys back. He was super excited. I think the feeling from everyone (was), to see one of their leaders and a guy that’s a big part of our team back, especially coming off a road win like that.”
Ingram figures to aid a running game that has found its stride in the last two games.
After rushing for 43 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against Tampa Bay, and 62 yards on 23 carries against Cleveland, the Saints posted 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries against Atlanta, and 170 yards and three scores on 32 carries against the Giants.
“Mark is a huge addition,” Armstead said. “We’ve been trying to get this run game going since Week 1, we have some success the last two games. We just want to build on that. I feel like our offense works best – not just our offense, our entire team – works best when the run game is going, when we can impose our will on opposing defenses.”
NIGHT BREES: Of course, as the week progress, most attention will be focused on the fact that Monday night is expected to be the game in which Drew Brees breaks the NFL record for career passing yards. He needs 201 yards to top Peyton Manning’s 71,940.
Brees is the only quarterback Armstead has played with in the NFL, and he has made known his thoughts that Brees is the GOAT.
“It’s been great, it’s been unbelievable, watching him work, working with him,” Armstead said. “The friendship we’ve built, the relationship we’ve built over time, it would be great for him to get that record coming up. (But) it’s not a focus, not something that’s in the gameplan, ‘Get Drew Brees the record.’ Week to week we like to win the game. If we’ve got to run the ball for 200 yards, throw for 100 yards, that’s what we’ll do.”
Armstead recognizes that others are in the greatest-of-all-time argument, but he solidly backs Brees.
“I just think Drew has his level of consistency, the numbers if you just want to look at the numbers, his preparation, his work ethic,” he said. “He’s just a special guy that sacrificed and dedicated his entire life to being the best of all time, and I feel that he’s reached that. He feels that he’s still got some more work to do, which is the beauty of it.”