METAIRIE, La. (AP) — In addition to bringing in a new kicker for Sunday's pivotal NFC South clash with Carolina, the Saints will have a rookie who hasn't played a single offensive snap protecting Drew Brees' blind side.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle. The coach also asserted that the moves were aimed at improving performance at certain positions — not at getting the attention of his team after a 27-16 upset loss at St. Louis.
"These aren't decisions you make for effect," Payton said. "You don't do that. At least we don't."
That doesn't mean it didn't have an effect.
"When you make a move like that, it's telling everyone: 'You're accountable ... and when you don't go out and execute and play the way you should play, then there are consequences,'" said middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, a defensive captain.
The Saints also have signed veteran safety Eric Frampton, who played under current Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Dallas last season, and is expected to help on special teams.
New Orleans can capture its division crown and secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC by winning at Carolina. However, the Saints also could slide to a wild card spot with a loss, or even miss the playoffs by losing their last two games.
Graham, 36, replaces Garrett Hartley, who was released on Tuesday afternoon, two days after failing to convert two field goals against the Rams. Armstead assumed a starting role previously held by Charles Brown, who was benched during the second half of Sunday's game.
Graham is a 12-year veteran who played at Houston last season. His last field goal try in the NFL was a converted, career-long 55-yarder at New England in a playoff loss on Jan. 13.
"It's hard when you feel like you've done well and then you're twiddling your thumbs for the next few months," Graham said. "I've been training just as hard as if I was on a team, if not harder. So I don't feel like there's any physical concern ... and luckily there's no playbook to learn."
Armstead was a third-round draft choice out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. His pro playing career thus far consists of 17 special teams snaps and he's been inactive for 10 games, but the Saints have high hopes for the 6-foot-5, 304-pound lineman with a quick first step and what Saints coaches consider to be exceptional athleticism for his size. Whether his blocking technique is refined enough to keep Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy — who has eight sacks — away from Brees remains to be seen.