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Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints' No. 3 back in practice

Mark Ingram has not been a great fit in the New Orleans Saints' offense since the team picked him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. It feels like the Saints haven't used the running back much, but Ingram actually has led the team in carries in back-to-back years. That might not happen for a third time.

Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune notes that Ingram consistently worked with the second-team offense during organized team activities and the Saints' mandatory minicamp, which wrapped up Thursday. Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas split the "vast majority" of first-team work. Thomas received most of the traditional carries, with Sproles performing his usual "line up everywhere" role.

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Initially, this news doesn't feel like a surprise. But Saints coach Sean Payton was loyal to giving Ingram the ball as a rookie, even at the risk of force-feeding him when he wasn't effective. Last year, Ingram led the team in carries, toting the ball 51 times more than Thomas.

Perhaps this is just a way to motivate Ingram. Maybe it's a recognition of what a great player Thomas truly is. Or perhaps it's a nod to Payton's plan to ride the "hot hand" when the season comes around.

No matter how you view it, there's no particular reason to expect Ingram's role to increase in his third season.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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