Brian Allee-Walsh

Selfish acts by high-profile players don’t reflect well on Saints

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has 850 yards rushing this season and he’s 150 from reaching 1,000. If he hits the mark for the first time in his NFL career, he will get a $100,000 bonus.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has 850 yards rushing this season and he’s 150 from reaching 1,000. If he hits the mark for the first time in his NFL career, he will get a $100,000 bonus. AP

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram turns 27 on Wednesday.

Happy birthday, Mark!

Now grow up and act your age.

Because the childish behavior Ingram displayed on the Saints sideline during the waning minutes of Sunday’s 48-41 victory against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, didn’t necessarily play well on TV and certainly didn’t paint him in a favorable light.

To set the scene, Ingram’s outburst and heated words with coach Sean Payton came moments after teammate and running back Tim Hightower had extended the Saints lead to 48-34 on a 2-yard touchdown with 3:27 remaining.

It marked Hightower’s second TD against his former team in a span of about nine minutes in the fourth quarter.

Ingram, who had been pulled from the game in favor of Hightower, essentially threw a fit for the lack of a better term. Ingram should have been placed in timeout.

Afterward, Payton declined to answer questions abut the incident, perhaps leaving Ingram to explain himself to reporters.

Ingram addressed the issue, calling it “a great win” and acknowledging “I’m real competitive in everything I do. I gotta be smarter, gotta control my emotions better.”

He also thanked his teammates and coaches who helped defuse the situation, saying “that’s what a family is all about. A team is a family.”

Ingram’s outburst comes three weeks after Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks expressed frustration with his lack of involvement in a 49-21 victory against the Los Angeles Rams.

Cooks did not catch a pass nor was he targeted in a game where the Saints scored a season-high 49 points and amassed 555 yards, 360 through the air.

Afterward, Cooks, 23, acknowledged that he, too, is “competitive” and happy the Saints won.

“But every once and a while you have to express what you want,” he said. “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”

So let’s review these two episodes of sophomoric behavior and try to lend perspective.

Ingram (2011) and Cooks (2014) are both first-round draft picks. Each is an integral part of a prolific offensive unit and highly valued by general manager Mickey Loomis and Payton. Each figures prominently in the Saints franchise going forward.

Each is well-compensated.

Each young celebrity is extremely competitive and ego-driven and presumably wants to help the Saints be successful.

So what’s wrong with these pictures?

Usually, the aforementioned diva-like acts come after losses. But the Saints prevailed in both cases, with the offense scoring at will against Los Angeles and Arizona.

I’m not naive. I understand that Cooks and Ingram have incentive clauses in their contracts that, if met, will enable them to earn additional tens of thousands.

So when Cooks pulls an oh-fer against Los Angeles, it hurts his chances of making mucho dinero. When Ingram is denied an opportunity to score touchdowns and get closer to his first 1,000-yard rushing season in the NFL, it hurts his chances of making an extra $100,000 or so in bonuses.

I get it.

The question is: Do Ingram and Cooks get it? I mean, really get it.

Football is the ultimate team game and requires players to be on the same page working toward a common goal. The recent selfish behavior displayed in public by Ingram and Cooks provides a brief glimpse and telling snapshots of what might be preventing this franchise from becoming relevant again.

Apparently, some current Saints may spell TEAM with an “I’’ and “Me.”

Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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