In an unwelcome surprise for the New Orleans Saints, Pro Bowl veteran running back Mark Ingram has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, the league announced Tuesday.
Ingram violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and will now have to miss the first quarter of the upcoming season.
The versatile Saints running back will be permitted to practice and play in the Saints preseason.
“[The Saints] did know before the draft,” NFL reporter Ian Rapoport said. “They never quite can tell if the player is going to win an appeal or not. [Ingram’s] been battling this for the last several weeks. He found out today he did not win his appeal.”
— NFL (@NFL) May 8, 2018
Second-year running back and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara is expected to shoulder most of the load while Ingram is out.
Interestingly, this could be a far bigger loss for Ingram than for the Saints.
Not only can Kamara likely pick up most of the slack, but the opening slate of games for the Saints is surprisingly friendly considering that New Orleans won the division last year.
The Saints’ first four games will be against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.
Only the Falcons, a fellow NFC South rival of the Saints, made the playoffs last year. The Browns are clearly rebuilding. The Giants should be rebuilding. And it’s not clear what the Buccaneers are doing since they haven’t abandoned the sentient turnover known as Jameis Winston yet.
There’s little reason to think the Saints won’t be able to weather an early season loss of Ingram. After all, the team still boasts superstar quarterback Drew Brees, the aforementioned Kamara, star receiver Michael Thomas and a fast, youthful defense.
For Ingram, missing four games could be critical.
In 16 games last year, Ingram set career highs in rushing yards with 1,124 and receiving yards with 416. He also notched a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns.
It’s highly unlikely that Ingram will be able to replicate that success after missing a quarter of the season.
And falling short of last season’s statistical totals couldn’t come at a worst time, considering Ingram is heading into the final year of his contract.
A talented backup rookie, an untimely suspension and an annually lukewarm running back free agent market add up to quite a bit of uncertainty for Ingram.
The Saints drafted Louisiana Tech running back Boston Scott in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft, but they could still look for a short-term veteran backup for Kamara in the meantime.
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