Saints running back Mark Ingram isn’t sure about a couple of things.
He doesn’t know if his team will exercise a fifth-year option on his contract. And though it’s assumed, he isn’t truly certain how much his role will increase after the Saints traded running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles in March.
Ingram is, however, sure about something else he considers more important.
“I’m ... excited to be back ... getting ready to go for a championship,” he said Tuesday before participating in the Zurich Classic Capital One Bank Celebrity Shootout at the Tournament Players Club in Avondale. “We should have a great team, and we’re looking forward to the year.”
Ingram was thrust into the collective conscience of Saints fans a day earlier when it was revealed that New Orleans had picked up the fifth-year option on the contract of Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan. The Saints had not done the same with Ingram, who like Jordan was a first-round pick for the franchise in 2011.
The deals Ingram and Jordan signed as rookies were for four seasons but, under the collective bargaining agreement adopted that year, enabled the Saints to exercise a team option to keep them under contract for a fifth campaign.
Jordan’s base salary in 2015 will be about $6.79 million, or $5.9 million more than it was in 2013 and $5.53 million more than it’s supposed to be in 2014. If the Saints activate Ingram’s option by a May 3 deadline, it will cost them about $5.21 million, or about $4.16 million more than the running back’s base salary was in 2013 and $3.82 million more than it’s supposed to be in 2014.
Ingram said he didn’t think the news about Jordan — whose 121/2 sacks in the regular season were fifth most in the NFL and second in the NFC — “would surprise anybody.”
“He’s a great player,” said Ingram, who’s close friends with Jordan and keeps his locker next to the defensive end.
Ingram added the Saints haven’t told him what they plan to do with his contract, but he didn’t seem bothered by it.
“I’m glad to be on a team that’s a championship contender,” said Ingram, who had 78 carries for 386 yards and a touchdown to help the Saints finish 11-5 during the regular season and then tallied 146 yards on 28 carries in two playoff games before New Orleans was eliminated in the NFC divisional round.
In case the team heaps more onto his plate with Sproles gone, Ingram said he’s been working to improve his speed, explosion, power and off-field studying methods. He’d been exercising on beach sand before the Saints’ voluntary conditioning program, which began Monday and is scheduled to phase into no-contact, on-field drills after two weeks.
“When it’s time to move toward the football aspect of things, we’ll be looking forward to installing and ... developing great chemistry as a team,” Ingram said. “We’re looking forward to the year.”