METAIRIE - Having four capable halfbacks on the roster may be a dilemma for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton when he has to scribble down his game day inactives, but it’s a blessing in disguise when one is hurt.
Second-year back Chris Ivory has been a healthy inactive the last three games behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, but Ivory may be needed for Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans in LP Field.
Ingram, the team’s leading rusher this season with 474 yards and five touchdowns, didn’t practice Wednesday because of a turf toe injury he sustained in a 31-17 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
Turf-toe injuries are often unpredictable, so it’s not known if Ingram, who met with reporters after getting treatment Wednesday, will be able to go against the Titans.
“It’s an injury than can vary,” Ingram said. “It can linger for a while, but others turn the corner fast. I’ve had teammates that played with it and I’ve had teammates that couldn’t play with it.
“At the end of the day, I want to do whatever’s best for the team,” he said when asked if he’ll lobby Payton to play. “If I feel like I can play and bring my best to the table, I’m going to go. But if I can’t bring my best, I’ll sit down if it’s best for the team.”
Ingram wasn’t the only player to come out of Sunday’s game with an injury.
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) didn’t practice, while linebacker Scott Shanle (shoulder) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring) had limited participation.
Defensive end Turk McBride, who has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, remained out of practice.
For the Titans, four starters did not practice as center Eugene Amano (knee), cornerback Jason McCourty (concussion), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (groin) and wide receiver Nate Washington (ankle) were held out.
Playoffs in sight
The Saints (9-3) can clinch a playoff berth in one of two ways Sunday.
A win over the Titans and a loss by the Atlanta Falcons (7-5) on the road against the Carolina Panthers would give the Saints the NFC South title and guarantee them of at least one home playoff game.
The Saints can also wrap up at least a wild-card playoff berth by beating the Titans coupled with a loss by either the Chicago Bears or Detroit Lions, who are both 7-5. The Bears play at Denver, while the Lions host Minnesota.
On a roll
The red-hot Saints offense is averaging 448.7 yards per game and is on pace to finish the season with 7,179 yards - which would shatter the NFL record of 7,075 yards set by the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” team back in 2000.
One of the reasons for their productivity is ball security. The Saints have played three straight games without a giveaway, going 13 quarters without one. The last one came in the third quarter of the second Tampa Bay game on Nov. 6 when Drew Brees threw an interception.
The Saints are 19-0 all-time under Payton when they don’t give the ball up.
As the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Ingram gets to vote on the award.
He declined to say who he voted for, although he likely put former Alabama backfield mate Trent Richardson in the top slot among his three choices.
“I’d like to keep that confidential,” said Ingram, who acknowledged that five great players - including LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu - are finalists for the award to be announced Saturday night.
“I’d tell them to enjoy the weekend with their family, and take it all in because not many people get to go up there for that,” he said of his advice for the finalists.
“Whether you win or lose, hold your head high because not too many people get invited to New York.”
Brees, the reigning FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week, is a finalist for that honor once again after throwing for 342 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Lions.
The other nominees are San Francisco’s Alex Smith and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, while the FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Week nominees are Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, whom the Saints will face Sunday.
Fans can vote for one player in each category online at www.NFL.com/FedEx until 2 p.m. Friday.