The music blared during the stretching portion of the Saints' organized team activities Thursday, just like it always does during practice.
But this time, there was no Mark Ingram around dancing to the music or yelling out wisecracks to his teammates.
The black and gold No. 22 jersey now belongs to a rookie defensive back instead of the former Heisman Trophy-winning running back who donned it for the past eight seasons in New Orleans.
Ingram is about 1,100 miles away, playing in Baltimore after signing with the Ravens in free agency.
"He was our heart and soul, a guy that we all loved being around," quarterback Drew Brees said. "He's a guy who I looked forward to seeing the most coming into the facility every day. You're always disappointed when all of a sudden you're not together anymore. But it's not the first time that guys retire or move on or whatever it may be. I think you just have to be appreciative for the time you had together."
Ingram left as the second-leading rusher in franchise history, just 89 yards rushing behind Deuce McAllister's 6,096 yards.
But it's Ingram's presence in the locker room that will likely be missed even more than his productivity on the field.
"We've had a lot of guys on this team that brought a lot of energy to practice and Mark was one of them for sure, especially in this corner (of the locker room)," said fullback Zach Line. "It's always nice to have that. He's been around this team for a long time. Fans loved him, and he showed love back to the fans. He was one of those pieces that New Orleans is going to miss as a whole."
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Line has spent the past two seasons helping open up holes for Ingram and sitting in the running back room with him. Linebacker Demario Davis plays on the other side of the ball, but it took him just one season to know Ingram's impact.
"It’s hard when you lose a brother like that," Davis said. "I don’t think you really can replace a person like him, but we all know this business of football goes on year in and year out and know even if you retain as much of your locker room as possible, your team is going to have some changes. That’s part of it. It’s next man up onto the new, and I think we’ll be alright."
The Saints signed Latavius Murray, who spent three seasons with the Oakland Raiders and the past two with the Minnesota Vikings, to fill the void left by Ingram. In just a short amount of time, Murray has impressed his teammates.
"Fortunately, we have another running back who understands that hard work is what this team is built on, and he's been doing that so far," Line said.
Cam Jordan was Ingram's closest friend on the team. Well, actually they are more like brothers than friends. The two came to the Saints together in the 2011 draft class. They still talk every week, but Jordan said it'll be different not being on the same team.
"I'm still getting over it; it's still a little fresh on my mind," Jordan said. "... It's overly weird just not knowing that every day if I'm an energy boost, he's an energy boost. We had high energy going on at all times, and you miss that aspect of the locker room."
But as the Saints players will tell you, the show must go on. The NFL is a business and players move on and there is roster turnover every year. Davis played his first season with the Saints in 2018 and wasted little time becoming one of the team leaders. So he expects much of the same this season. Newcomers like veterans Murray and tight end Jared Cook will be counted on to help with the transition.
"I think one of the great things about a locker room like this, is it’s filled with a bunch of alpha dogs and a lot of good, positive leaders," Davis said. "That’s how you create a culture like this. They’ve had so many guys in this system for a long time that understand the Saints brand of football, understand how to set the standard and not just accept anything. The locker room is full of guys like that, so when you lose key pieces like Mark Ingram, like Max (Unger), you’ve still got a bunch of guys you can look to that can maintain that culture."