New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram grateful Saints didn’t let him return to game with concussion

Mark Ingram left the field at Bank of America Stadium last Thursday in a rage.

He had just taken a vicious shot from Carolina Panthers safety Kurt Coleman, but couldn’t believe the trainers were taking him off the field.

As he walked to the locker room, Ingram let loose a stream of emotion, according to The Advocate.

“I was yelling at a lot of people, because I didn’t agree that I was ruled out the game, but I didn’t know that I was unconscious or knocked out for three seconds, whatever it was,” Ingram said. “They ruled me out — which was the right decision — and everything’s looking good.”

Ingram had trouble understanding what had happened because he had bounced back so quickly.

After a few seconds unconscious, Ingram rolled over on his own, answered the doctor’s questions with ease and smiled at Saints coach Sean Payton, who had come to check on him.

At that point, Payton knew his starting running back would be fine.

“Initially there was a reaction by everyone and you feel for the player, in your own mind you say a quick prayer and you just hope that they are well,” Payton said. “Fortunately, with Mark, within about 15 seconds, 10 seconds after I got out there, he gave me that smile, and you knew things were going to be OK.”

Ingram mistakenly thought everything was already OK.

I figured that I was going to be OK, that they’d probably do some tests and I’d be going back in.

Saints running back Mark Ingram

For starters, he popped up and walked off the field under his own power, and the sixth-year veteran had never had a concussion, so he didn’t know what it felt like.

“I figured that I was going to be OK, that they’d probably do some tests and I’d be going back in,” Ingram said.

Cooler heads prevailed, and Ingram is glad the trainers were there to keep him from making a decision that he might have regretted for the rest of his life.

NFL players are aware of the dangers concussions pose to the long-term health of the brain if not allowed to heal properly. But in the moment, a player’s first instinct is to get back on the field.

“It’s a serious subject,” Ingram said. “A lot of guys have been dealing with it over the years. You’ve seen some of the effects and the tragedy that comes from concussions. It’s my first one; I’ve never had another one. I wasn’t scared, because I didn’t know. I got up, and I felt like I was fine.”

A big, hulking presence escorted him to the locker room and helped pull Ingram out of his outburst.

Left tackle Terron Armstead, who was held out of the game with a knee injury, took Ingram’s helmet away from him and walked side by side with Ingram to the locker room, trying to calm his teammate down the entire way.

“I needed him at that point in time,” Ingram said. “I wasn’t happy that I was getting pulled out of the game, and just to have somebody who’s a close friend of mine, to be there with me and calm me down, get me to the locker room, get me calmed down, that’s what this game is all about. We’re a family.”

Ingram found out first-hand why so many doctors say that teams can’t rely on a player to self-report a concussion.

When a player sprains an ankle or tears a hamstring, they know something’s not right immediately. But even a bad concussion can leave a player like Ingram convinced he’s fine.

“You can’t let the player diagnose themselves,” Ingram said.

According to Ingram, he was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and he has progressed far enough that he was able to take part in practice Wednesday with no restrictions except no contact.

Ingram believes he’s on track to play Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, provided that he finishes the final steps in the protocol without any incident over the next couple of days.

“You just have to be smart,” Ingram said. “Our lives matter, our livelihood matters, so health is No. 1.”

Even if he didn’t know it at the time.