Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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Sean Payton still sounds like Mark Ingram's biggest fan

Ingram's contract dispute doesn't seem to have fractured that relationship

Seth Dunlap
May 25, 2018 - 8:03 pm
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Saints RB Mark Ingram wants a new contract, and he's using every bit of leverage he has trying to get one.

Ingram has chosen to not participate in voluntary offseason workouts and training activities, although voluntary may be a relative term.  Coaches want all of their players, especially veteran leaders like Ingram, to participate in offseason programs like OTAs.   This situation is even more complicated as Ingram has been suspended by the NFL for a violation of the league's performance enhancing drug (PED) policy, although he maintains his innocence and is fighting the suspension with legal action.

There's been no bigger supporter of Ingram's since the day he's been drafted than head coach Sean Payton.  The two are notably close both on and off the field, with Payton consistently praising the eighth year pro, even in the face of persistent criticism among some in the fan base. 

It would be easy to think Payton would view Ingram's absence from OTAs as a proverbial thumb in the nose of a coach who has had his back over the years, yet he doesn't seem to view it that way.

"We've had a couple of conversations.  Those are he and I talking, and I told him that at some point I'd be talking to the media and this is what I'm going to say.  I don't necessarily agree with the decision but I certainly respect it."

Ingram accounted for 1,540 yards of offense for the Saints last season while reaching the end zone 12 times.  Missing that kind of production from your offense, even in a practice situation isn't ideal.

"The challenge is the loss of Ingram for the first four weeks (at the beginning of the season)," Payton said.  "So, he can come to training camp, participate much like Willie Snead a year ago in everything leading up to the last cut down date.  At that point he's out of the building for a month.  That seems like a ways away right now, but I do know that he's someone who knows what we are doing and is staying in shape."

Even though this isn't, yet, an actual hold out by Ingram it feels a bit like one.  Hold outs are commonplace in the NFL, and it's something Payton has dealt with quite a few times during his tenure in New Orleans.  Even though he respects Ingram's decision to use leverage in trying to get a new contract doesn't mean he thinks its going to work.

"Oh I don't know, I'm trying to think.  You go back in history this used to take place a lot more with rookies before the slots, the way it's set up now.  Your first round pick wouldn't be in training camp for three days, four days, maybe a week.  There'd be that pressure to, hey, we gotta get him in here  So, I think it depends on the player, the club.  There so different, when this happens.  I don't really get as concerned about something I can't control like that.  I'm really focused on the guys that are here, and making sure the guys that are here are getting better."

Even amid the tension of a contract dispute, and a league suspension for violation of the PED policy, Payton hasn't lost his respect for Ingram.   He was a fan of the versatile back before, and he says that hasn't changed.

"Shoot, I still am (a fan of his).  It's important to separate personal feels and professional feelings.  I care too much for a guy like him, and think the world of him.  I told him when I spoke, I don't necessarily agree with it.  We talked for a long time, for a couple times.  So it is what it is."

You can watch Payton's remarks on Ingram at the 16:45 mark of the video below.

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