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Will Mark Ingram Play?

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An interesting note in a piece written this afternoon by Don Kausler. It seems that Nick Saban told Brent Musberger that Mark Ingram could play if needed:

If you were watching ESPN earlier this afternoon, then you were looking live at Brent Musburger, who was reporting from outside Alabama's football complex.

The ABC broadcaster, who will describe the Alabama-Penn State game beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN's national telecast, had just been looking live at Alabama coach Nick Saban and getting the latest (and maybe last) word on Mark Ingram's status.

The injured running back could play in the showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium if Saban wanted to "push the envelope," Musburger said.

Interesting.

First and foremost, let's note that is great news regardless of whether or not Ingram plays tomorrow night. If nothing else, this means that there was no serious structural damage to the knee and that Ingram is making a very fast recovery. Moving forward, that should mean Ingram will be completely healthy by the time the stretch run of the season begins with Arkansas. Even if he doesn't see the field until Fayetteville, that is great news in and of itself.

With that said, though, Kausler does bring up an interesting point. If Saban says that Ingram could play -- meaning that he has presumably been cleared by the UA medical staff to play -- well, who knows? If any player can play, especially one with the talent of Ingram, it's not exactly hard to envision him actually playing in a big game. We're not talking about crazy, almost theoretically impossible scenarios here, it's feasible. I said a few days back that I figured that if this were a game that we absolutely needed Ingram to win, he'd probably be on the field, and if nothing else what Kausler is reporting here doesn't refute that notion.

Now, I figure the smart money is still on him missing this game, getting a few tune-up carries against Duke, and then hopefully heading to Fayetteville at 100%. The likelihood of that scenario is only further increased, I think, by the strong showings of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy against San Jose State, and the fact that the coaching staff will likely want to be as cautious as reasonably possible with Ingram.

Nevertheless, that doesn't exactly make this a foregone conclusion. If Ingram feels good after pre-game warm-ups and he has been cleared medically to play, who is to say what will happen? It really wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the field if everything plays out in that manner. He would get a reduced role, I'm sure -- Richardson would carry the bulk of the load, surely -- but that is not to say that he couldn't get a few carries here or there, or be used in some less stressful situations like in pass protection on obvious passing downs.

So, will Ingram play? It looks like we're going to have to tune in tomorrow night before we find out for certain. And that's probably just how Saban wants it to be, too.