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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — What might have been former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram's best season as a pro is over with four games remaining on the New Orleans Saints' season.
The Saints have placed Ingram, their most productive running back, on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season after 12 games.
A person familiar with the situation said a worsening of Ingram's recent shoulder injury is the reason why he won't play again this season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Saints have not publicly specified why Ingram was placed on injured reserve.
Ingram had been on the team's injury report with shoulder soreness last week, but played the entirety of Sunday's 41-38 loss to unbeaten Carolina. He also scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season with a little more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Ingram, selected for the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, has been the team's leader in yards from scrimmage this season with 1,174, including 769 yards rushing. He also scored six touchdowns rushing.
"Obviously, he has been tremendous and been extremely reliable in all phases of the offense, obviously running the football and protection and catching the ball out of the backfield," Drew Brees said of Ingram. "Over the last two years especially he has kind of come into his own. I would consider him one of the top backs in the league, all-purpose, can do everything and just a great guy to be around and great locker room guy. I don't know if there is a guy more liked than him."
With Ingram out, New Orleans activated fullback Austin Johnson from the practice squad. The Saints still have three other running backs on the active roster: C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower and rookie Marcus Murphy.
"You hate to lose guys that mean so much to your offense, but it's the next man up mentality, and Tim Hightower is a guy that has been looking for an opportunity for a while, and he will get that. And C.J. Spiller as well, and then Marcus Murphy will have a role," Brees predicted. "You never know how things shake out and you have seen us play long enough to know that we have a lot of guys that can be shuffled in."
Spiller was among the Saints' highest-profile free-agent acquisitions, but has not played a central role in the offense. Spiller said he'll be ready to do more, if asked.
"I never get into how many times I touch (the ball). It's just all about, 'How can we be successful as an offense going up against a good defense?' Spiller said. "I think I'm an every-down back. I have faith in my abilities to go out there and get the job done if my number is called upon. But I have to make sure at the same time that I'm in tune with the whole game plan. I have to make sure I'm in the right spots that I need to be on certain plays."
Hightower, making a comeback this season from a knee injury and related complications that sidelined him about three years, has carried the ball 12 times for 48 yards in his four games with New Orleans. Murphy does not have any carries, but has been effective in spurts as a kick and punt returner.
NOTES: The Saints had five players sit out practice Wednesday: left tackle Terron Armstead (knee), cornerback Delvin Breaux (hamstring), receiver Marques Colston (rest), cornerback Brian Dixon (abdomen) and defensive tackle John Jenkins (concussion). Five other players were listed as limited in team drills: linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hip), guard Jahri Evans (ankle), defensive end Bobby Richardson (hamstring), receiver Willie Snead (calf) and right tackle Zach Strief (shoulder).
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