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Sean Payton says that New Orleans Saints adding Mark Ingram would be an important move for team

Payton: 'There’s a leadership element, a toughness element, there’s a respect element'

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Of course, running back Mark Ingram II had an in-house lobbyist laying the groundwork for his possible return to the New Orleans Saints.

Naturally, it was fellow running back Alvin Kamara, with whom Ingram formed a special bond from the moment Kamara was drafted in 2017, with the two becoming Pro Bowl teammates that season. Over two seasons, the two seemed inseparable inside the team's facility, and often handled their postgame media access jointly.

But Kamara, it turns out, wasn't on top of a football play for one of the few times in his life. With Ingram playing this season with the Houston Texans, Kamara mentioned to Saints Coach Sean Payton that bringing back Ingram – especially with the Saints banged up at running back – wouldn't be such a bad idea.

"(Ingram) can't (reach out to me), and he didn't," Payton said. "But his little partner in crime did.

"Alvin said something to me, I forget where, and I was like, 'Listen, buddy. You're on, like, C, and I'm on, like, M.' I said, 'So catch up, we're already down that road.'"

The road back to New Orleans officially will be completed Thursday, Oct. 28, when Ingram finishes his physical, and the franchise's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (50) and No. 2 all-time leading rusher (6,007 yards, on 1,321 carries) is expected to be on the practice field Friday.

"There's a leadership element, a toughness element, there's a respect element," Payton said. "We feel like he does a lot of things well, he knows this system and I think he'll be an important addition for us."

After the Saints released Latavius Murray on Sept. 7, paving the way for Tony Jones Jr. to assume the mantle as the backup to Kamara, and Jones was injured Oct. 3 and placed on injured reserve, New Orleans was left with Dwayne Washington and receiver Ty Montgomery as backups. Washington, a key special team player, was injured against Washington on Oct. 10 and the Saints then brought in Devine Ozigbo, who was with the team in training camp in 2019.

"After Latavius left and Tony was getting the work at the 2 position, when he got injured, it kind of created a void," Payton said. "Ziggy, we brought in and we're real familiar with him, he's done a great job.

"But a player like (Ingram), sometimes it's hard to gauge if a team has any interest. (Executive Vice President and General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and I talked about it in Seattle, we felt it was worth calling and just kind of poking around.

"Alvin and he obviously are real close, and once that momentum began – I was still somewhat skeptical, just relative to the role he was playing for them. And (Wednesday), kind of went back and forth and fortunately, we were able to work something out. His plane landed. He won't be able to practice today, he'll be able to practice (Friday)."

As for Ingram playing Sunday against Tampa Bay in the Caesars Superdome, Payton was optimistic.

"Absolutely," he said. "That's a good chance. Absolutely. That's like a high chance."

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