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Saints' Khiry Robinson expected back this week

PITTSBURGH -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton revealed that running back Khiry Robinson is expected to return from an arm injury next week against the Carolina Panthers while denouncing a report that the Saints had shown any interest in reinstated running back Ray Rice.

“We like our running back depth,” Payton said. “And if you do a little research, Khiry’s coming back next week.”

Robinson has missed the past six games with an unspecified arm injury. He hasn’t returned to the practice field yet but hinted on Twitter that he was close to a return. And he was seen in the locker room without a brace on the arm.

Chances are, the Saints will ease Robinson back into the mix -- especially since Mark Ingram has done so well in a leading role and since Pierre Thomas returned from his own shoulder and rib injuries last week.

Ingram ran the ball 23 times for 122 yards in Sunday’s 35-32 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers -- his fourth 100-yard game during Robinson’s absence. Thomas, meanwhile, had three carries for 21 yards and two catches for 16 yards in the victory.

But it will be interesting to see how the Saints divvy up the touches once Robinson is back to full speed.

Robinson was running extremely well before he was hurt. Robinson gained a total of 245 rushing yards in a three-game span from Weeks 3-5 while Ingram was out with his own hand injury -- including a game-winning 18-yard touchdown run in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5.

Robinson’s 5.2 yards per carry would rank second among all NFL running backs if he had enough carries to be eligible. Ingram’s 4.5 yards per carry are tied for 10th among qualifying NFL running backs.

In other words, Robinson’s return will be a “good problem” for the Saints but a possible headache for fantasy owners.