Mark Ingram has three 1,000-yard seasons, and all of them occurred after he turned 25 years old.
After nine seasons, Ingram firmly believes he's a better running back at age 30 than he was five years ago, or when he entered the NFL in 2011. He averaged five yards per carry last season and finished with 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns, setting the tone by rumbling for 49 yards on Baltimore's first offensive play of the season.
Ingram doesn't know how long he's going to play. But he feels very much in his prime, and he's determined to challenge the notion that running backs often decline quickly after age 30.
"I'm with a great team that takes care of me," Ingram said during a teleconference. "I feel like I can play this game at the highest level for at least another four or five years. I honestly do. My body feels good, I'm moving good. I have nothing really lagging. If I do, I'm working on it, rehabbing it, strengthening it up so all weaknesses are turning into my strengths.
"I just want to be the best. You talk about running backs who had long prestigious careers, I want to be in that discussion. It's not to prove anybody wrong. It's basically to prove everyone who believed in me all this time right."
Ingram was the oldest running back to reach 1,000 yards last season, but he did it on just 202 carries, ranking 20th in rushing attempts among backs last season. Lamar Jackson had almost as many attempts (176) as Ingram, and the Ravens were three-deep at running back with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill also taking reps.
Despite the Ravens' depth at running back and setting an NFL team record for most rushing yards in a season, some pundits have speculated Baltimore could add a running back such as Georgia's D'Andre Swift with a high draft pick. If that happens, Ingram, who was on the field for the running backs' Combine workouts this year, won't have a problem with it.
"Running back's always a position where you try to have depth and quality," Ingram said. "If that did happen, that's just what it is. We're going to welcome that young running back, try to make him better, try to make the team better. There's always going to be somebody younger trying to come in. They're always looking for new talent to compete at every position. Competition is part of it, you can't be scared of competition. It breeds excellence."
Ingram is excited about next season and believes the Ravens are about to add talent in this draft who will help them win a championship. Ironically, the Ravens hold the 28th pick in the draft this year, and Ingram was the 28th pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2011, and his father, Mark Ingram, was the 28th pick for the New York Giants in 1987. To Ingram, that's a good omen.
"They have to be picking a legend, right, at 28?" Ingram said laughing. "Hopefully we get a high impact player, a player that can come in right away and be an impact player for us, help us win championships. Good player, good teammate, good person. I don't expect nothing less from the Ravens organization, because that's what we've got on our team, good guys that love to work hard and want to win championships. I see nothing less than the type of player that fits that mold."