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Saints' Mark Ingram: 'I'm not angry with my contract'

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METAIRIE, La. -- After missing the voluntary organized team activities, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram found himself a wanted man Tuesday following the first day of mandatory minicamp practice.

Approximately 50 media members camped out at his locker anxiously waiting for his arrival. Ingram entered the locker room, saw the crowd and allowed himself a chuckle.

He offered a wide smile, and then made his way through the crowd to provide his first comments since the announcement of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

"I fought it hard," Ingram said. "I don't agree with it, I'm going to serve my suspension and I'll be back."

While he admitted to being surprised by the punishment, Ingram declined to go into the specifics that led to the league's ruling.

"The decision was made," he said. "The ruling was made and I'm going to serve my suspension."

Ingram made his return to the team's training facility for the first time during the offseason workout program after skipping OTAs.

The running back enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $4 million, but Ingram quickly shot down speculation that the status of his contract was behind his decision to skip OTAs.

"People make their own narrative, the media makes their own narrative," Ingram said. "I'm not angry with my contact. I wasn't holding out. Yeah, I'm in the last year of my deal -- of course, I'd like an extension --  but that's not the reason I wasn't here. It is voluntary, you have the option to come, I had a workout bonus."

While the Saints were conducing OTAs, Ingram elected to train on his own in Florida, where he said the focus fell on speed work, route running, catching passes, taking care of his body and getting his weight down to a trim 215 pounds.

"I feel like when you get a little bit older in your career, you know exactly what you need to get ready," Ingram said. "You know exactly what your body needs to prepare for a season. I've been in this system seven years here, I've done the offseason program seven years, I know exactly what it entails."

Ingram, who totaled 1,540 yards (1,124 rushing) and 12 touchdowns in 2017, quickly re-established himself on the first day of mandatory minicamp by taking his spot with the first-team offense.

"He looked good," coach Sean Payton said. "I think he's in good shape. He did well; good seeing him out here."

In the meantime, Ingram said he will attend training camp and he understands the responsibility to help ensure the running back group is ready for the regular season while he serves the four-game suspension.

But Ingram has faith in his backfield teammates, which currently consists of Alvin Kamara, Jonathan Williams, Trey Edmunds, Daniel Lasco and rookie Boston Scott, to fill the void during his absence and he had a message for the group.

"Just keep pushing, keep grinding," Ingram said. "It's not the end of the world. I'm going to be back, I'm going to be ready and those guys need to step up. Alvin is going to do a great job, I'm sure of it, and the rest of the guys are going to do a great job of preparing and putting themselves in position to have success. I'm going to be rooting for my teammates real hard and hopefully we're 4-0 when I come back."

Other news from Saints training camp:

» Wide receiver Michael Thomas was not present on the first day of mandatory minicamp, but Payton said the third-year pro had an excused absence.

» Defensive end Cameron Jordan also had an excused absence to be at the hospital for the birth of his child.

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