Running back Mark Ingram said goodbye to New Orleans and hello to Baltimore on the same day.
After spending his eight NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the former Alabama All-American became an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday afternoon and signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday.
“It’s not easy to leave,” Ingram said during an introductory press conference in Baltimore, “but ever since I’ve been talking to the Ravens organization, ever since I’ve been here in Baltimore, I feel more and more comfortable each and every way. My family, we love it. My kids are running around, having a great time. So we’re looking forward to getting involved in the city and getting involved in the organization, because we’re excited about great things coming up here in the future.”
On Friday night, Ingram posted a message on his Instagram account in which he said he “will bleed black and gold forever.”
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NOLA‼️ Thank you for the ups, downs, love, support, and memories that will last FOREVER! I appreciate the city for loving and welcoming me with open arms from the beginning. I have developed relationships and gained FAMILY that will go wayyy further than this game. Thanks to Mr and Mrs Benson, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, and everyone in the organization who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to live my childhood dream! All my people in the equipment room, training room, weight room, media, cafeteria, ticket office, nutritionist, and everyone in that building on airline drive who helped reach this point of my life! THANK YOU TO THE BEST FANS EVER, Who Dat Nation is special! I will always be grateful. My brothers who I laid blood, sweat, and tears on the line with. Nobody will understand the brotherhood. Nobody will understand the love I have for my brothers, BUT YALL DO‼️ y’all know what it is between us and you know forever I got your back and I know you got mines‼️ My emotions have been crazy. How can I be heartbroken and more excited than ever at the same time⁉️ It’s because a chapter of my life is closing but a new chapter is beginning. In order to move forward into the blessings God has for you, you have to be willing to let go of the old. I am extremely excited about my new family and my new opportunity‼️ I will BLEED BLACK AND GOLD FOREVER‼️ THANK YOU NEW ORLEANS, for everything‼️⚜️🖤⚜️🖤⚜️🖤⚜️
A post shared by Mark Ingram II (@markingram22) on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:38pm PDT
“I’ve got brothers in that locker room,” Ingram said of New Orleans. “Of course, the office and the front office that believed in me and stuck with me for eight years. I’ll never forget my time in New Orleans. There will always be memories and always love for Who Dat Nation, but I think it was just time for me, at this point in my career, to move on, and I feel like I have my best years ahead of me still.
“I feel like the Ravens, they wanted me, and I wanted to be here, and it just worked out. It worked out really well, and the Saints made their move, and then the Ravens came and got me.”
When New Orleans didn’t reach an agreement with Ingram, the Saints signed another free-agent running back, Latavius Murray of the Minnesota Vikings. That left no room for Ingram in New Orleans.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said Baltimore saw Ingram as a “total package.”
“I think production, mindset, toughness, his impact on games in the passing game and also the running game, the leadership,” DeCosta said in listing Ingram’s qualities. “We’ve got great relationships with people like (Ravens wide receiver) Willie (Snead), and (tight end) Ben Watson’s another guy, and what they said about Mark as a person was as impressive as what we saw on tape. I think it’s a great fit for us from a leadership standpoint, a character standpoint, production, durability, what he provides. Total package.”
The Ravens installed rookie Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback with seven games left in the 2018 regular season. Leading a run-heavy offense, Jackson helped Baltimore win six of those games to capture the AFC North crown. The Ravens ran for more than 200 yards in five of the contests and for at least 159 in each of them.
Ingram said Baltimore’s style of offense “was very appealing to me, and just to have the opportunity to carry the ball, to get into a flow, get into a rhythm.”
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016. Ingram said it would be “sweet” to play with his “Heisman brother.”
“Just being able to be in the backfield with him, I’m excited about it,” Ingram said. “I think it’s going to be dangerous. I think we’re going to be explosive. I think we’re going to change the game. So I’m here to help him excel, take some pressure off of him, and I feel like we’re going to great things together.”
A two-time Pro Bowler, Ingram thinks he’s not just getting older, he’s getting better.
“I feel like my best football is still ahead of me,” Ingram said. “I feel like I’ve got many more years of playing this game at the highest level and being one of the best in the game, and I have the opportunity to come here and do that with a great franchise, a great organization, some great teammates, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.