By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Mark Ingram pulled a protective walking boot out of his locker and set it on the floor, then acknowledged that he might have to sit out with a sprained toe on his left foot when the Saints play at Tennessee this weekend.
If that turns out to be the case, the consolation for New Orleans is that last season's leading rusher, Chris Ivory, is eagerly awaiting another chance to play.
Ingram missed practice on Wednesday. He said he still hoped to play on Sunday against the Titans, but also noted he has never had a so-called "turf toe" injury and could not be certain how quickly he would recover.
"At the end of the day, it's like, whatever's best for the team," Ingram said. "If I feel like I can play and bring my best to the table, I'm going to go. But if I can't bring my best to the table, if that's what's best for the team, then I'll sit it down."
Ingram, a 2011 first-round draft choice and former Heisman trophy winner at Alabama, has 122 carries for 474 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 54 yards on 16 carries, including a 14-yard touchdown, in a 31-17 victory over Detroit last Sunday night, but hurt his toe during the game.
Ivory, who led the Saints in rushing in 2010 with 716 yards and five touchdowns on 137 carries (an average of 5.2 yards per carry), has played in only two games this season.
Early in the season, it was because of his health. Lately, it has had more to do with the Saints' depth at running back.
Ivory began training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning he could not participate in practices, while rehabilitating his left foot, which he broke in the final regular season game of 2010.
His comeback from that injury was further complicated by sports hernia surgery in August. The Saints decided to leave Ivory on the PUP list when the regular season opened, meaning he would be prevented by NFL rules from playing until Week Seven at the earliest.
Ivory did not come back until Week Eight, rushing for only 18 yards in the Saints' 31-21 upset loss at St. Louis. In his second game back, he rushed for 67 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay, but then went back on the injury report with a hamstring pull the following week and did not play in New Orleans' victory at Atlanta.
Ivory has been a healthy scratch in the two games since the Saints' bye week.
With all four of the Saints' top running backs healthy, coach Sean Payton decided to go with a rotation of Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, leaving Ivory to watch, out of uniform, from the sideline.
Payton said he would not necessarily be more cautious with Ingram's injury simply because Ivory is ready to go.
"Our approach would be just as we always have," Payton said. "If we feel the player can play and is ready to play, we'll do that."
Ivory, who joined New Orleans as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Tiffin last year, has yet to question the team's decision to keep him out of the lineup for at least three games in which he has been healthy this season.
"It's always hard when you want to be out there, but all I can do is sit back and wait until my number's called," Ivory said.
"I've still been running (in practice). I've been doing everything just about everybody else has been doing, but probably a little fresher than most of the other guys just because of the fact that I haven't been out there (in games) taking many hits," Ivory said. "I feel pretty good for the most part."
Notes: Also missing practice on Wednesday were DE Turk McBride (left ankle) and LB Jonathan Casillas (right knee). Payton said Casillas' injury stemmed from Sunday night's game. McBride was injured earlier. ... The Saints intended to practice outside on Wednesday, but because it was windy they decided to move inside so as not to endanger staff who film practice from raised platforms. Sunday's game marks the Saints' first outdoor game since a Week Six loss at Tampa Bay.
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