It would be easy for Sean Payton to be unhappy with Mark Ingram. Instead, the Saints coach has taken the perfect even-keeled approach with his running back.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has every right to be angry with Mark Ingram. The talented running back is suspended for the first four games of the 2018 campaign and he skipped OTAs against his head coach’s wishes. Despite all that, Payton is doing a great job of managing his relationship with Ingram.
The Saints coach understands how important it is to “separate personal feelings and professional feelings.” That’s why he’s able to understand Ingram’s decision to skip OTAs even though he would have preferred to see him attend. That’s also the sort of attitude that endears Payton to his players.
As such, Ingram has no qualms about showing up to the Saints’ required minicamp on June 12. Payton is confident his running back will be in attendance even if he hasn’t received a new contract. The 28-year-old would like to sign a new deal to keep him in New Orleans for the foreseeable future, but the team is hesitant to engage him in meaningful discussions.
His age, coupled with the fact that he’s going to miss four games due to suspension to open the season, significantly complicate his desire for a new deal. It’s highly unlikely the Saints are going to offer him the type of contract he and his representatives desire before seeing him play a regular season game in 2018. That means he’ll need to wait until at least Week 5 to show the team he’s still the same player he was last year.
Even if Ingram accomplishes that, don’t expect the Saints to go too crazy with any contract offer. Payton has a lot of confidence in Alvin Kamara to replace Ingram if need be. New Orleans will not be handing a big money contract to a 28-year-old running back under any circumstances.
The relationship between the Saints and Ingram is likely coming to a crossroads soon. Sean Payton deserves a lot of credit for keeping the communication lines open in the meantime. His deft handling of his running back may just squeeze another highly productive year out of Ingram after he returns from suspension.