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As Kamara returns, Saints RB willing to split reps

METAIRIE, La. — Alvin Kamara will be back in the New Orleans Saints‘ lineup Sunday and said he plans to play like he hasn’t “missed a beat.”

Kamara, who missed the Saints’ past two games before their Week 9 bye because of knee and ankle injuries, said he felt good after returning to full practice participation on Thursday. And coach Sean Payton said, “I fully expect him to be ready to play” at home Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

The running back said he feels fresh after three Sundays off but wouldn’t call it a benefit because he missed being on the field.

“It’s like a downfall, kind of, because I wish I was out there,” Kamara said with a smile. “I’m happy to be back, just happy to be back practicing on the field with my teammates, happy to be back kind of like a regular functioning member of this team. Because when you’re hurt, you’re kind of like on the back burner a little bit. You kind of miss out.”

Kamara insisted that there is no jealousy or selfish desire to take his role back from veteran backup Latavius Murray, however.

Murray ran wild in Kamara’s absence, with at least 150 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in each game.

Kamara said he will be happy to share the workload with Murray going forward — like he did over the past two years with Mark Ingram.

“It’s not like I’m selfish. I don’t need the ball every play. He’s fully capable too. So I think we’ll get a good balance going, and it will be hard to stop,” said Kamara, who said he talked to Murray early this season about how the touches would eventually balance out, even though Kamara was getting a heavy share of the workload at the time.

“And he was like, ‘I’m good. I’m not tripping,'” Kamara added. “I thinking it’s an unselfish team. … So however it shakes out, it shakes out. I’m ready.”

During the offseason, Payton said he wanted to keep Kamara’s “pitch count” where it was last year. Kamara played 61 percent of the offensive snaps last season in games where both he and Ingram were in the lineup; Kamara played 75 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps during the first five games of this season.

Payton acknowledged Thursday that he could shift the workload a bit in the wake of Kamara’s injuries and Murray’s success.

“Week 1 Alvin coming back. We’ll be smart,” said Payton, who suggested the workload could vary based on the opponent. “And the good news is the way [Murray] played and the way Alvin’s played, we feel like we’re real good at that position. And they’re smart players, they’re real good teammates, they’re guys that can block, they’re guys that can handle the pressures, they can handle the receiving element of it.

“Obviously, they’re uniquely different, but we’ll sort through that and figure that out. Certainly it was great to see the way Latavius stepped up.”

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