From 'Big Truss' to big brother, Mark Ingram remains the consummate leader

The time Mark Ingram tried to juke a dog (0:16)

In 2018, Mark Ingram tried to get away from a dog during K9 security training on an NFL-USO tour, but it didn't work out too well for the running back. (0:16)

Running back Mark Ingram II’s first season with the Baltimore Ravens will be remembered as much for his having Lamar Jackson's back as for his franchise-record 15 touchdowns.

This season, he has taken the role of consummate leader beyond being Jackson's unofficial MVP spokesman.

Known as "Big Truss," in 2020, Ingram has embraced being a big brother, as rookie J.K. Dobbins put it.

"He’s helping me with anything I ask," Dobbins said. "Anytime I text him, he texts back. It’s great to have someone like that in my room because he’s a vet. He could tell me, ‘Get up out of my way. You’re a rookie,’ but he doesn’t do that. I’m so grateful to have him."

Ingram has taken a potentially awkward situation and made it a nonissue publicly. He came into the offseason as the top running back for the best ground attack in NFL history. In April, Ingram spoke about playing at a high level for another five years and becoming one of the running backs known for long, prestigious careers. Ten days later, Baltimore drafted Ingram's possible successor.

The selection of Dobbins in the second round -- the Ravens' highest pick of a running back in nine years -- didn't surprise Ingram.

"I’ve been in the league 10 years, and I’ve never seen a team bring in a running back or draft a running back," Ingram said. "It was a high-value pick where we were at. I don’t think many people thought he would be there."

Soon after being drafted, Dobbins reached out to Ingram. They continued talking throughout the offseason and have started building some chemistry.

"That’s what this league is all about -- especially running backs -- is being able to pay the game forward," Ingram said. "I have guys who paid the game forward to me. So just to be able to pass the game down, pass knowledge down -- anything that he wants to know -- I’m there to help him and there to support him."

Ingram's nurturing attitude comes at the start of a critical season. He is the unquestioned starter at running back as training camp opens, but he's also 30, which is often the death knell for players at his position. Over the past 10 seasons, just two running backs have gained more than 1,000 yards rushing after starting a season at 30 or older (Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore).

Then there is the issue of his contract. Ingram is entering the second year of a three-year, $15 million deal. Baltimore can save $5 million in salary-cap space by cutting him next offseason.

Now the Ravens bring Dobbins, Ohio State's single-season rushing record holder, into an already crowded backfield, which includes Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.

Ingram understands being on a team with plenty of talented runners. In 2011, he was on one of the two teams this decade that featured four running backs with at least 300 yards rushing in the same season. That was the New Orleans Saints, who had Ingram, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.

How does Ingram envision Dobbins affecting his role?

"The coaches will decide how to rotate us and play us all," Ingram said. "All I do is work my butt off. I compete my butt off no matter where I’m at and who’s in my running back room. That’s just the bottom line."

After eight seasons with the Saints, Ingram immediately established himself in Baltimore's electric yet young offense. His 15 total touchdowns were tied for fourth in the NFL, and his 5 yards per carry ranked seventh in the league.

But a calf injury caused him to be less than full strength in the Ravens' 28-12 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans. He rehabbed vigorously, with intense workouts that were posted to social media.

"Mark is a pro," Ravens head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders said. "I wish I had half the energy that Mark has, and Mark gets it. Mark knows how to prepare."

Ingram isn't the typical veteran running back because of the wear and tear. Since entering the league in 2011, his 1,321 carries rank 10th in the NFL.

He believes his 10th season can be his best. But in typical leader fashion, Ingram's goals for the team are just as lofty.

"We didn't finish how we wanted," Ingram said of the previous season. "We wanted to be champions. That's the standard here, nothing less. It's championship mentality."