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Fact or Fiction: Mark Ingram wants out of New Orleans?

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and running back Mark Ingram have been forced to deny a report that never existed in the first place.

Payton insisted Monday that the notion of Ingram seeking a trade out of New Orleans was "completely false" and had "zero credibility."

Ingram correctly identified the culprit for the misplaced trade "report" Thursday.

"No, you guys (media) came up with that," Ingram said, via The Times-Picayune. "I've never said that at all. I never asked for it. Don't want it. Like I said, New Orleans is home. I love teammates, love my coaches, love this organization. I'm very grateful to be part of this organization. It's a class organization."

Ingram didn't have to be a supersleuth to nail the media for a rumor they have yet to stop mongering.

The original speculation came from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who wrote Sunday morning that "league sources believe Ingram could" seek a trade in the coming weeks.

As far as "reports" go, there isn't much difference between the innuendo of La Canfora's sources and the deranged musings of the know-it-all on the bar stool next to you. It's purely guesswork based on campfire chatter, dot-connecting or wish-casting.

At no point did La Canfora state that Ingram wanted a change of scenery.

So how does Sunday morning's idle speculation metastasize into Monday afternoon's full-fledged controversy?

Start with the original headline that reads, "Saints' Mark Ingram could be next running back to be traded."

Is it inaccurate? No. But it is misleading. The inclusion of the word "could" lets the headline writer off the hook while still accomplishing its goal of drawing eyeballs.

Chris Johnson "could" be the next running back traded as well. That doesn't mean he's dialing up Nashville realtors.

The onus is on NFL news aggregators and bloggers to understand the often subtle difference between speculation and a report.

The former has been the harmless fun-filled fodder of hot stoves leagues for more than a century. The latter is something that Payton and Ingram should have to address -- as long as it's not a flight of fancy.

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