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Mark Ingram getting extra work ahead of suspension

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NEW ORLEANS -- Saints running back Mark Ingram enters uncharted territory.

Ingram, who will serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season, is preparing himself physically and mentally to be away from the team, an occasion that marks a first on his playing career.

"I don't know what that's going to be like or how it's going to feel," Ingram said Sunday. "I'm sure it's not going to feel good. It's my first time ever being away from my team in any form of fashion since I've been playing sports, but it is what is at this point. We're just working. I'm doing everything I can to prepare us to get off to a fast start."

The Saints are also apparently getting Ingram ready for the absence.

Ingram didn't record an offensive snap in the first two preseason games in 2017, but the Saints have utilized a different tactic with Ingram by giving him 14 total carries on 23 offensive in the past two exhibition matchups. Alvin Kamara spent Friday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap.

"I won't be playing the first few games, so it makes sense." Ingram said.

The Saints must deal with the blow of entering the regular season without Ingram, who combined with Alvin Kamara in 2017 to pace a ground attack that ranked fifth in the league (129.4 yards rushing per game). Ingram and Kamara also became the first teammate backfield duo in NFL history to each record 1,500-plus scrimmage yards in a single season.

New Orleans appears well-equipped with depth behind Ingram and Kamara, as Jonathan Williams, Shane Vereen, Terrance West and rookie Boston Scott, the team's sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft, round out the roster. Second-year pro Trey Edmunds, a halfback in 2017, is now listed as a fullback.

"Last week we gave Mark a little bit more work than Alvin," coach Sean Payton said Sunday. "We're deep. We have a number of healthy running backs that we're trying to evaluate, and we keep kind of just rotating who's up with the first group."

From what he sees on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, linebacker A.J. Klein echoed his head coach on the backfield depth and the linebacker likes what he has seen through training camp practices and preseason action.

"I think Jonathan Williams has shown up and he's definitely run the ball hard," Klein said. "Even Boston is making people miss, whether it's in the return game or running the ball. I think we have great depth at the running back position. It's definitely a strength for us."

Nevertheless, the search for Ingram's replacement continues, and the final two preseason games will go a long way in settling the pecking order behind Kamara.

"That evaluation is still taking place," Payton said. "These next two games are going to be real important."

In the meantime, Ingram is prohibited from being at the Saints' training facility once his suspension begins.

While the running back hasn't decided where he'll work out, Florida remains an option when considering that is where Ingram trains during the offseason.

But one thing is for sure -- Ingram wants to take advantage of any repetitions he receives in the remaining two preseason games. He also plans to use the first quarter of the regular season to focus on staying in shape with the full intent on making an impact once he returns to the active roster.

"When I come back, I won't miss a beat," Ingram said. "I'm able to contribute, play fast right away."

Ingram will miss the games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.

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