Mark Ingram: Saints Need RB Healthy to Start Post-Bounty Season

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IIJuly 25, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04:  Running back Mark Ingram #28 of the New Orleans Saints rushes with the ball against the Detroit Lions in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Saints already have enough problems heading into the 2012 season. Now, they can add more uncertainty regarding Mark Ingram to the list.

According to's Larry Holder, interim coach Joe Vitt said the second-year running back will continue to be monitored heading into the beginning of training camp until his scoped left knee is fully healed. 

The 2011 first-round draft pick underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in early May, according to Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith, and he was expected to miss six weeks, which included OTAs and minicamp.

Training camp opens on Thursday, and Ingram isn't ready to go yet. Whether he will be completely healed by the time the preseason schedule begins is unknown.

Ingram is no stranger to missing time due to injuries: Smith reports in his article that during Ingram's rookie season, an injured heel kept him out of two games, and he also missed the final four games of the regular season and the postseason after undergoing toe surgery.

During his injury-hampered 2011 campaign, Ingram rushed for 474 yards on 122 carries for a team-leading five rushing touchdowns. During a stellar sophomore campaign at Alabama, he accumulated 1,992 total yards and registered 20 touchdowns.

He can be a star. He's proven that. He just needs to stay healthy.

The Saints can't afford another injury. They can't even afford the tiniest bit of bad news. And now, they know that their 2011 first-round draft pick—who came with an abundance of injury concerns, particularly regarding his knee, according to Pro Football Talk's Evan Silva—is taking longer than expected to heal from yet another surgery.

Ingram is young. He still has plenty of time to live up to the immense expectations that followed him into the NFL. But he's never going to get there if he can't stay on the field.

This is one thing the Saints didn't need. They've already lost key members of their coaching staff and all of their dignity following the bounty scandal; they at least could've used a standout performance from a once-heralded draft pick who came with enormous expectations.

This isn't to say Ingram should be rushed back onto the field. No good ever comes from that. The very, very last thing the Saints need is for Ingram to return too soon, re-injure himself and end up missing the majority of the 2012 season.

That's why his first priority during camp needs to be getting healthy. He needs to do whatever it takes.

The Saints don't have a standout running back. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles were good, but neither of them had more than five touchdowns last season. Ingram can be that star—if he can stay healthy.

He, at least, can give the Saints something to look forward to over the next several years.