Saints running back Khiry Robinson is evasive about the forearm injury that’s kept him out of his team’s games since Oct. 19.
When the second-year pro spoke with reporters after his first participation in practice in weeks on Wednesday, Robinson said, “I had a little boo-boo, and I got it fixed, so ... I’m back on the field,” invoking a term he’s used before when talking about injuries.
But Robinson didn’t mind squashing any notion that he’d need the Saints to bring him along slowly after sitting out New Orleans’ past six games, of which the team has won three.
“I’m ready,” Robinson said when asked if he could shoulder his usual load four days away from the Saints’ (5-7) hosting Carolina (3-8-1). “I’m ready.”
Robinson rushed for two touchdowns and 330 yards on 64 carries in the six games he played before his injury. The second of those touchdowns, which came from 18 yards, resulted in a 37-31 victory at home over Tampa Bay that prevented the Saints from falling to a 1-4 start; and his 5.2 yards per carry would be the fourth-highest in the NFL if he had enough rushing attempts to qualify for the league’s leader boards.
Robinson had the opportunity to log more snaps than usual because running back Mark Ingram was out for half of the first six contests this year with a broken hand. The Saints utilize Robinson and Ingram similarly.
Robinson was then hurt in a Week 7 defeat at Detroit, and Saints coach Sean Payton said the running back required surgery. Coincidentally, Ingram’s return from his hand fracture was that visit to the Lions, and from there he has delivered 148 of his career-high 172 carries, 624 of his career-high 767 yards and three of his career-high six touchdowns this season.
There was a certain irony to the situation. First, Robinson enjoyed quite a bit of success covering for a guy. That guy subsequently had immense success covering for Robinson.
Yet, Robinson has no qualms about that. He said he felt as happy for Ingram as Ingram was for Robinson after the game-clinching TD against Tampa Bay.
Still on the mend and wearing a kind of tan-colored glove over his left hand, Ingram that day ran up to Robinson, playfully grabbed the hero of the moment by the facemask and yelled at him in celebration.
“Any time somebody does something positive or negative, we’re always here to encourage,” Robinson said while wearing a brace on his hurt arm in the locker room at the Saints’ training facility. “It’s not like one versus the other or he’s doing good and I’m like, ‘Aw, dang.’ ... We’re all one.”
Ingram echoed that Wednesday, remarking, “Any time that you’re not in the game ... you root all your teammates on.”
When the tables are turned and it’s on him to do more than normal because of injuries, Ingram said, “I’ve got to step up.”
It’s only natural to wonder how much of an effect it will have on Ingram’s production if Robinson returns to action as he expects this upcoming Sunday. It could be that Ingram continues commanding the vast majority of touches in the backfield, or perhaps Robinson cuts into those noticeably.
Payton didn’t say much on the matter Wednesday. He made it sound as if Robinson’s usage could be increased gradually moving forward, and he also said there’d be plenty of touches to go around for all of his backs to be effective.
Aside from Ingram and Robinson, the Saints have veteran Pierre Thomas and third-year man Travaris Cadet at running back. Thomas — who missed four games earlier this campaign hurt — is frequently either going out for passes or protecting quarterback Drew Brees from blitzers on third downs, and Cadet is sort of in reserve for that role.
“With regards to the first game a player’s back, you have to look closely at how many snaps,” Payton said Wednesday.
“But I don’t envision it really changing what Mark’s been able to do, and I think that there will be enough carries in the game, and we’ll be smart about it.”
Robinson doesn’t doubt he and Ingram can coexist again. He vividly recalls when the Saints won their first road playoff game in franchise history in Philadelphia in January, when Ingram wore the Eagles defense down by rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Saints then handed the ball to Robinson three times in the final 4:07 of the game, and he picked up 22 yards of a clock-draining, 34-yard drive that set up the last-second field goal that vanquished the Eagles.
“Last year toward the end,” Robinson said, “that’s when we really got it kicking.”
Don’t look now, but with four regular-season games left this year, it’s getting to be toward the end again.