Looking to play for the first time since breaking his hand in week 2, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram returned to the practice field in hopes of playing in Sunday's game at Detroit.
One player not taking part in team drills was tight end Jimmy Graham, who suffered a shoulder injury in week 5. Graham, who exited the Saints' win over Tampa 2 weeks ago and did not return, could now miss up to 3 weeks, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The Saints were initially optimistic about Graham's status, as the team's open date fell during week 6, giving the tight end an extra week to heal. However, further tests proved the injury to be slightly more serious in nature, and the dynamic playmaker may now be unavailable until the team's week 9 Thursday night date with the Carolina Panthers. Veteran Tom Crabtree was signed last week in anticipation that Graham could miss time. The Saints will host Crabtree's former club, the Green Bay Packers, next Sunday night. Having been out since week 3, Mark Ingram could make his return Sunday in Detroit.
Ingram's return has been expected, as coach Sean Payton expressed hope that the 2011 first-round draft choice would have a chance to play in a radio interview last week. Ingram had rushed for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries, and was off to the best start of his four-year career before going down in the loss at Cleveland. He should return to the lineup and handle his usual early down, goal line workload while splitting snaps with both Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.
With Graham out, veteran Benjamin Watson and talented youngster Josh Hill will see an increase in snaps in the Saints' offense. Watson, the best blocker of the group should see the most snaps, although Hill's big-play ability will get him on the field. Crabtree should also see some playing time while Graham sits out. Ranking among the best tight ends through his five appearances in 2014, Graham has hauled in 34 receptions for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Joining Mark Ingram in making a return to the practice field was fullback Erik Lorig. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, who signed a four-year contract with New Orleans in free agency over the spring, had been on the shelf since early August with a lower leg injury sustained during training camp. It is unclear if he will be available this weekend, as the Stanford alum, who can also double as a tight end in short-yardage situations, may need time to enhance his conditioning. Lorig's ability to play tight end in a pinch could give the Saints yet another option while Jimmy Graham rests his injured shoulder.
Center Jonathan Goodwin, who has been battling knee and ankle injuries this season, also returned to practice Wednesday. However, cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebackers Kyle Knox and Ramon Humber did not participate in team drills.
The Saints will take on the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT.