Players react to Saints' roster shake-up

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
8:00
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- Although New Orleans Saints players said it was tough to see longtime teammates Garrett Hartley and Charles Brown lose their jobs this week, they seemed to universally agree that it's a part of the business in the NFL.

And they all certainly anticipated that some moves like these might be coming after their 27-16 loss at the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. Quarterback Drew Brees said when the team met on Monday morning, coach Sean Payton "flat out said, ‘There's probably going to be some changes made around here, and some of you won't like it."

Brees said his "heart hurts" for a longtime teammate like Hartley, who had a roller coaster six-year career in New Orleans. But he said players understood the move.

"Sean [Payton's] No. 1 goal for this team is to continue to help us improve and find ways where we can improve. Whether that means a change in schedule or a change in personnel or a slight change in scheme or whatever it might may be, he's going to do it," Brees said. "We all understand that. We also understand we've got to come out every week and prove it to ourselves, prove it to him that we belong and we can help this team win. There's always a sense of urgency, and we are all always on the hot seat. We've got to perform.

"That could be any one of us if we're not getting the job done. Decisions like that are made and you've got to live with it and move on."

Punter Thomas Morstead, who has been close to Hartley for five years, agreed with all of those sentiments.

"It's the NFL, man," said Morstead, who said he went to dinner with Hartley and long snapper Justin Drescher on Monday and talked with Hartley after his release Tuesday. "You know, I guess it's part of what makes it special. It's precious, and you could be fired as quick as that. … It's another reminder."

Players all insisted, however, that they don't think Payton made the roster changes just to send a message. They said Payton made the moves based on what he thinks will give the Saints the best chance to win a critical game at Carolina on Sunday.

And while they said the roster shake-up helps to emphasize how important this game is -- it's something they knew already.

"When you make [moves] like that, it's telling everyone 'you're accountable,'" linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "And you're not just accountable to the players but you're accountable to this organization and to these fans. And when you don't go out and execute and play the way you should play, then there are consequences. It's sad, but that's part of this game and everyone knows that.

"Moving forward as players, we came together and we talked. We can't play like that. It's disappointing and it's very frustrating. And if you're going to be a great team -- it looks like the NFC is going to go through Seattle; they're going to get the 1 seed. We've got to go lock up this 2 seed this week. If we're going to go to the Super Bowl, we've got to win on the road so it starts this week."

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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