Entering his 10th NFL season, the dedication that Mark Ingram II brings to his craft remains a huge part of his success.
Ingram's teammates know that his energy level is off the charts, that his effervescent personality engulfs a room.
But Dr. Sharif Tabbah had never worked with Ingram until this offseason. Over the last four months, Tabbah watched Ingram bring relentless passion to their daily workout sessions in South Florida. Now Tabbah understands why Ingram is a three-time Pro Bowler who runs with such fury. If Ingram has his best season at age 30, Tabbah won't be surprised.
"The type of competitor that Mark is, that's what separates him," said Tabbah, lead physical therapist at Athletix Rehab and Recovery in Miami whose client list includes New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal and Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
"I've worked with different pro athletes at the highest level from the NFL, MLB. Mark is one of those guys who has that 'it' factor. It's hard to explain, but guys who have it are different. That's what makes him ferocious. The inner lion in him comes out."
The Ravens' decision to draft running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round has created speculation from pundits about how carries will be divided among Ingram, Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.
That's a lot of hungry backs, but Ingram isn't worried about getting enough to eat. The Ravens know what he brings to the table, and he enters training camp as the lead back coming off a 1,000-yard season. Ingram doesn't view Dobbins as a threat, but as a young teammate he will mentor.
"This is my 10th season and I've never seen a team that didn't either bring in a running back or draft a running back," Ingram said. "That's the norm. So, it didn't surprise me. I think that it was the high-value pick right there. I don't think many people thought he would be there.
"I'm not necessarily surprised. We run the ball a lot, we put emphasis on running the ball. So, being able to have our backfield – me, Gus, Justice, add J.K. to the mix, I think it's an elite backfield [with] guys who I think can start anywhere in this league. We'll be competing. We'll be working together to have the best rushing attack again."
There is no doubt Ingram puts in the work. Glimpses of his offseason workout sessions are on social media, and the pandemic did nothing to stop Ingram from reporting to camp in peak condition.
Some of the workouts Ingram did with Tabbah focused on balance and changing direction quickly, always with an eye on injury prevention. Ingram has never played fewer than 10 games in any NFL season, so durability has not been an issue. However, he suffered a calf injury in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns and was less than 100 percent during the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans. Running backs take plenty of punishment during the grind of the season, but Ingram is a back who also dishes out pain, and his elusiveness may be underrated.
"He's already a powerhouse runner," Tabbah said. "He's already a bowling bowl, guys are flying off him. But if they're able to grab a leg and throw him off balance, giving him the ability to retain his balance and line of course when he's taking on a contact could make him an even more difficult train to stop."
Ingram also loves working with Ravens Strength & Conditioning Steve Saunders, who admires the way Ingram attacks every workout with purpose.
"Mark is a pro," Saunders said. "Mark knows how to get himself ready. I wish I had half the energy that Mark has, and Mark gets it. He knows what he needs to do for rehab, for running, for strength work. I'm not worried about Mark at all."
Nor is Ingram worried about his role. He had 202 carries last season for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. If his workload increases in 2020, that will be fine with Ingram. If he gets fewer carries, Ingram will handle it like a professional. His value to the Ravens as a locker room leader goes far beyond stats. When it comes to enthusiasm, Ingram has no off button and teammates are fueled by his energy.
Ingram's main focus is on helping the Ravens get to the Super Bowl and winning it. Losing to the Titans in the playoffs didn't sit well with Ingram, so he couldn't sit still this offseason without trying to become even better. He is back in training camp and he's ready to ball. As Ingram might say, "Anybody have a problem with that, come see me."
"We didn't finish how we wanted," Ingram said. "We wanted to be champions. That's the standard here, nothing less – it's championship mentality.
"I just try to do everything necessary to make sure I'm bringing my complete package to the table and have my best season in my 10th season. That's what I worked on, and I'm thankful to everybody who helped me."