The New Orleans Saints are without their top rusher for the first quarter of the 2018 regular season.
Running back Mark Ingram has been suspended by the league without pay the first four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced Tuesday.
While pending the four-game suspension, Ingram is allowed to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
Ingram hasn't been around the team facility during voluntary offseason conditioning, however, and he won't be around for the voluntary OTAs, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday's NFL Up To The Minute.
Rapoport adds the suspension has hung over Ingram for "several weeks" and the Saints were aware of the situation before the league's annual three-day selection process.
"They did know before the draft," Rapoport said. "They never quite can tell if the player is going to win an appeal or not. He's been battling this for the last several weeks. He found out today he did not win his appeal."
Rapoport pointed out Ingram is heading into the final year of his contract and desires a new deal, even with the presence of Alvin Kamara, the NFL's reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, the absence of Ingram for the first four games is a blow to the Saints' potent ground game, which finished the 2017 season ranked fifth in rushing (129.4 yards per game).
Ingram and Kamara became the first teammate running back duo in league history to each record 1,500-plus scrimmage yards in a single season.
Kamara, who will have his first shot to be the featured rusher, produced 728 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 120 carries, averaging an eye-popping 6.1 yards per attempt. He added 826 yards receiving and five touchdowns on 81 catches.
"At the end of the 2017 season, as a result of a NFL mandated random drug test, Mark Ingram tested positive for a substance that was not a performance enhancing substance, nor an illegal substance, but a substance in fact permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL. He has vigorously challenged the test results through the arbitration process. The arbitrator's Opinion is due on or before Wednesday, May 16. Upon having the opportunity to review the arbitrator's opinion, we will explore what further options are needed."