Payton, Brees on Mark Ingram's role

No football coach is going to reveal a great deal of strategy before a season. But New Orleans coach Sean Payton gave a pretty extensive answer about his plans for rookie running back Mark Ingram.

“It’s pretty easy,’’ Payton said in a conference call with the Green Bay media. “He’s going to be a guy we hand the ball to. We’re going to use him on first and second down, on third down. He's a guy we feel will give us a lot of versatility. He’s smart. He picked things up extremely quickly. He’s been a good addition to what we’re doing.’’

Take that as a sign that Ingram’s going to have a big role right from the start. The Saints didn’t trade back into the first round to get a running back they plan on having on the sidelines. They do have a crowded backfield with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Joique Bell also in place.

The one safe assumption is that Sproles will take on Reggie Bush’s former role and be used as a pass-catcher and outside runner. Thomas has shown an ability to run between the tackles in the past and Bell had an outstanding preseason. But Ingram might be the most complete back of the bunch and that might mean he’ll get the most carries and playing time.

“I think all of them have a unique role, yet all of them have the ability to be plugged in at any moment,’’ quarterback Drew Brees said in a conference call with the Green Bay media.