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Saints RB Mark Ingram: 'I'll be back, and I'll be ready"

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If you know Mark Ingram, then you knew the New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl running back wasn't going to duck and hide.

So there he was Tuesday, the first day of New Orleans' three-day, mandatory minicamp, addressing his upcoming four-game NFL suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy and his decision to skip the Saints' voluntary OTAs.

Ingram, who is 735 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns short of topping Deuce McAllister's franchise-leading totals of 6,096 and 49, respectively, will miss New Orleans' home games against Tampa Bay (Sept. 9) and Cleveland (Sept. 16), and road games against Atlanta (Sept. 23) and the Giants (Sept. 30).

"I fought (the suspension) hard," Ingram said. "I don't agree with it. But I'm going to serve my suspension and I'm going to be ready when it's time. Hopefully, we're 4-0 when I come back.

"I fought it hard. I don't agree with it. But I'm going to serve my suspension and I'll be back, and I'll be ready."

Ingram said he was surprised by the suspension but now that the matter is closed, he'll turn his attention to being ready to impact the final 12 regular-season games.

"I love my teammates, I love my family, I love this organization, I love all my fans in Who Dat Nation, everyone who has supported me from Day 1," he said. "So I have to miss time, that's going to hurt me. I love everybody who supports me. Everybody who cares about me is still in my corner. It's going to be tough, but I'll be OK. I'm moving forward, not looking back and I'll be ready to go when it's time to play.

"I'm going to overcome it. I'm going to come back and I'm going to play well, and hopefully it'll fade away."

Ingram also said that talk was misguided of him missing OTAs due to unhappiness over his contract.

"The main reason that I wasn't here for OTAs was, I just wanted to train on my own this offseason," he said. "I wanted to switch up my offseason regimen this year and felt like I had some things that I wanted to work on personally that I could get done better myself. I wanted to switch up my offseason regimen this year and that was the main reason I wasn't here.

"I'm not holding out. I never told (Coach) Sean (Payton) or (General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) that I was holding out. That's just a narrative that the media created. The main reason I was not here was because I was training on my own, working on some things that I felt like I needed to get better at, and that I could do best on my own."

Ingram specifically said he has concentrated on speed work and weight management; he said he currently weighs 215 pounds, down 11 pounds from the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, in his absence, the remaining backs will have to fill the void left by Ingram, whose back-to-back, 1,000-yard rushing seasons were the first by a Saint since McAllister had a run of three straight from 2002-04.

Ingram had a straightforward message for them.

"Keep pushing, man, keep grinding. It's not the end of the world. I'm going to be back, I'm going to be ready and those guys need to step up. Alvin (Kamara) is going to do a great job, I'm sure of it, and the rest of the guys.

"They're going to do a great job of preparing and putting themselves in position to have success. I'm going to be rooting on my teammates real hard and hopefully, we're 4-0 when I come back."

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