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Saints sit left tackle, to start rookie at Panthers

The SportsXchange

A day after releasing kicker Garrett Hartley and replacing him with veteran Shayne Graham, the New Orleans Saints made another move on Wednesday when coach Sean Payton pushed rookie Terron Armstead into the starting left tackle spot for Sunday's critical division game against the Carolina Panthers.

Payton watched starting left tackle Charles Brown have trouble against the St. Louis Rams in a 27-16 loss last Sunday and decided to turn to Armstead, who has not played an offensive snap this season and in only four games on special teams.

"It's time to see what he can do," Payton said of Armstead, a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

"I think Terron's improved during the course of the season, be it taking scout team reps, some work with the offense."

Asked if Armstead was ready to play such a demanding position a a rookie, Payton said, "I don't know that there's that formula that, 'Hey, you're going to have to report as eligible for a year before you get called to the big leagues. I think he's apt at playing the (left tackle) position and I think (he's) ready to play that position. I think naturally that's the position he plays."

The Saints officially signed Graham on Wednesday to replace Hartley, who was with the team for six years. Hartley misseed two field goal attempts last Sunday against the Rams, including one from 26 yards.

Hartley, 27, connected on 82 of 101 field-goal attempts and 176 of 177 extra-point tries during his time with the Saints.

"He's an extremely talented player. He's going to play in this league, I think, for quite a long time and have success," Payton said. "And the way these doors kind of open and close, we just agreed that, 'Hey, right now, don't ever say never in regards to being back with the team.' But that being said, with what he's done and been a part of, it's difficult -- especially with the success he had in that run in '09.

"That was a tough decision. ... You spend a lot of time giving it thought and ultimately you go with your gut."

Graham, 36, is in his 13th NFL season. He made 31 of 38 field-goal attempts for the Houston Texans last year. The journeyman previously kicked for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.

Graham was briefly on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster early this season, but he did not appear in a game.
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