Alvin Kamara told reporters Monday that he wasn't holding out when he missed a number of practices last week amid reports that his absences were not excused and were the result of Kamara's displeasure with not being signed to a long-term extension.
"I ain't never held out in my life," he said, per Mike Triplett of ESPN. "I came to the building every day. That's all I've got to say."
Triplett and ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that Kamara had been receiving treatment for his back during those absences.
"It's something light," Kamara said of his back. "I kind of dealt with it a little bit last camp too. Just a little flare-up, just a little [sacroiliac] joint flare-up. It just needed some rest, a little injection, but nothing serious."
Whether Kamara held out or not, it seems the gulf between he and the Saints regarding a long-term contract extension became pretty intense, with Triplett reporting the team was "even open to the idea of trading Kamara for a first-round pick in light of his absence from practice."
Kamara, 25, is in the final year of his rookie contract and has been one of the best values in football over the past three years, rushing for 2,408 yards and 27 touchdowns in his short career while adding 243 receptions for 2,068 yards and another 10 scores.
He's emerged as one of the NFL's best multipurpose weapons and is likely seeking something in the ballpark of Christian McCaffrey's four-year, $64 million contract extension. That made McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in football and was big money at a position the league has devalued in the past decade.
Kamara will point out that he's one of the few running backs in the NFL who can make a major impact in both the run and pass game. The Saints will likely counter that he's never put up the full videogame stats that McCaffrey compiled in 2019 (1,387 rushing yards, 116 receptions for 1,005 yards, 19 total touchdowns).
The Saints would probably prefer to settle closer to the $12 million average annual value of Joe Mixon's recent contract extension. Regardless, Kamara will head into the 2020 season ready to go.
"No. 1, we would never discuss any type of contract progress with the media," head coach Sean Payton said when asked if the contract dispute could affect Kamara's play. "I'm confident that at some point we'll get this done, and we'll let you know when that happens."