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Saturday, July 30, 2011
Mark Ingram agrees to deal with Saints

ESPN.com news services

METAIRIE, La. -- Mark Ingram couldn't wait to put on his jersey.

Moments after signing his rookie contract with the New Orleans Saints, Ingram was pulling his No. 28 jersey on over shoulder pads, grabbing his helmet and trotting onto the field at club headquarters halfway through the second practice of training camp.

Coaches wouldn't let him do anything but watch on Saturday.

Still, the first-round draft pick and former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner wanted to show his new coaches, teammates and fans crowding the bleachers that he is ready and eager to go.

"It's what I have been waiting for my whole life. I am going to have the opportunity to play pro football," said Ingram, whose father, Mark Ingram Sr., also played in the NFL as a receiver. "I am excited to be here and to be a part of such a great organization like the Saints."

"I just came out here and watched today, but everything went through" with the contract, Ingram said. "Everything is good. Now I'm here, full-go, and ready to practice."

Ingram signed a four-year contract worth about $7.4 million, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Saints did not release terms.

A number of teammates offered congratulatory handshakes when they realized a significant piece of the club's ground attack was among them.

Head coach Sean Payton was pleased to see him as well.

"We'll get him going and get him involved in practice" on Sunday, Payton said.

Although Payton insists the Saints still wanted to keep Reggie Bush when they traded for the 28th overall pick to draft Ingram, it appears that Ingram's presence on the roster helped precipitate Bush's departure to Miami.

Bush's two-year, nearly $10 million contract with the Dolphins shows he was willing to play for less than the $11.8 million the Saints would have owed him this season alone under his original contract. However, Payton said Bush indicated a desire to move to a team that had less depth at running back.

When asked about Thursday's trade that sent Bush to the Dolphins, Ingram showed little interest in dwelling on the matter.

"I had no control over what happened," Ingram said. "My main focus was to be in the best shape possible coming into camp, work my butt off, and help the team win."

Ingram is the third Heisman Trophy winning running back drafted by New Orleans since the Saints took Ricky Williams in 1999. Bush was the second. The first two wound up being traded to Miami.

Ingram won his Heisman in 2009, when he rushed for 1,658 yards and led Alabama to the national championship. Last season, he injured his left knee in preseason practice and missed the Crimson Tide's first two games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery, then returned to rush for 875 yards on 158 carries.

Now he joins a Saints backfield that includes Pierre Thomas, newly acquired Darren Sproles, second-year running back Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton.

Although Ivory is not practicing yet while recovering from a broken left foot, he is expected to return in a couple of weeks, meaning there will be a lot of depth at running back if all five stay healthy.

"It will sort itself out," Payton said. "We haven't begun to sit and identify the rotation or anything like that. But, we do have an idea about the roles for these guys.

"We're excited about some of the young players we have and some of the experience we have like Darren and Pierre. So this will be exciting. I think it's important that we have that balance from a team concept. It helps us win the time of possession, and helps with what we want to do in the play-action passing game. It's certainly a big emphasis for us."

Although Ingram did not have the benefit of rookie camp, minicamp or team organized offseason training sessions, he said he was able to become somewhat familiar with both the Saints' offense and his new teammates by participating at the player-organized workouts that Drew Brees organized last spring.

"I know some of the basic things just from being out there with Drew," Ingram said. "Some of the other guys are also helping me with the terminology. I definitely still have a lot to learn. I have a ways to go. I am going to work hard in the film room. I am going to spend extra time studying the plays and knowing what I have to do out there so I can just go out and play and I don't have to think so much."

Ingram wore the No. 22 in college. Starting cornerback Tracy Porter already had that in New Orleans.

Ingram said he asked Porter about an exchange but soon decided to pick a new number and found one he liked.

He said the No. 28 "is a special number to me. I was picked 28, my dad was picked 28. He wore 82 when he played in the pros ... so I am happy with the number and it has a meaning to me."

Safety Roman Harper agreed to a four-year, $28.5 million deal Friday night, then watched training camp on Saturday because of rules barring free agents from practicing until the NFL's new labor agreement has been ratified.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says he's happy Harper's back because the Saints needed him.

Harper has had 100 or more tackles each of the past three seasons.

Notes

The Saints also signed third-round draft choice Martez Wilson, a linebacker out of Illinois. Terms of the deal were not released. He was expected to join Ingram at practice on Sunday. ... In addition to Ivory, five other players missed Saturday's practice with injuries: Porter (knee), CB Josh Gatlin (thumb and knee), G Carl Johnson (hamstring), DE Greg Romeus (knee), and LT Charles Brown (hamstring). Thomas Morstead, returned from a sore toe and punted in practice.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.