Mark Ingram II claimed that there is no secret sauce to lasting 11 seasons as an NFL running back when, in fact, there appears to be.
The New Orleans Saints' all-time leader in rushing yards (6,267) and rushing touchdowns (51) is poised to enter his 12th NFL season while playing one of the most punishing positions in a game filled with punishing positions.
And despite his dismissal, the recipe for Ingram's sauce has been a good one.
"I just go back to the drawing board every single year," he said this week, while participating in the Saints' veteran minicamp. "After the season I take a little time off, let the body recover, let the mind recover, spend some time with family.
"In February, I start getting my cardio going, start getting some rehab, some prehab, then kind of like middle February to March, try and get into my training. Always doing my treatment, always doing my therapy, always doing preventive work – things to just take care of my body. Stem cells, acupuncture, all kind of stuff, just trying to keep my body going and recovering.
"I just try to get better. I just try to learn my body and grow from it. I haven't really done anything crazy, I've just been staying true to what I know, true to what has been working for me, and that's this schedule. Doing my cardio, keeping my weight down, getting my treatments, getting my preventive work and being with my family. Nothing crazy, no secret recipe, just hard work and consistency."
Hard work and consistency transformed Ingram from a player who missed 18 games in his first five seasons, and whose relationship with the fan base was lukewarm at best, into one of the beloved players in franchise history. Twelve seasons – nine of them with the Saints, including two of his three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 56 of his 74 career touchdowns – gave each side time to garner an appreciation for the process that helped lead to the production.
"It's pretty impressive that a guy can play that position for that long at a high level in our league," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I think it's a credit to him and his work ethic and the way he goes about doing his job."
"It's just a blessing," Ingram said. "I'm thankful. I still feel really well. I still feel really good physically, mentally I have the desire and the passion to continue to play the game, I feel like I have the ability to do it at a high level still.
"I remember early in my career, when I had to share the ball a lot, it would kind of frustrate me and I always thought that I could be a rushing-title, All-Pro type runner given the opportunity. But I just think now that looking back on it, I didn't have that much wear and tear on me throughout the early years in my career. I think that's why I feel good in my 12th year. God does everything for a reason."
NFL teams do, too. And one of the decisions the Saints made this offseason was to not draft a running back, again leaving Ingram and his friend, fellow Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara, as the primary choices in the backfield.
"I do appreciate the confidence the team has in me, the confidence my teammates have in me," Ingram said. "I always work to be the best version of myself.
"I feel like I play this game at a high level. And given the right opportunities and the right situations, and obviously health, I feel like I can play this game at the highest level. so I'm appreciative of the team giving me a chance and giving me an opportunity – they extended (my contract) last year when they traded for me (from Houston).
"I'm appreciative of my teammates. I don't take it for granted. I'm still working trying to get better, trying to improve, so I can help our team win a championship. That's my ultimate goal."