Sean Payton is putting nearly all of his players on notice, whether he winds up making any significant late-season changes or not.

The New Orleans Saints have long praised their head coach's knack for motivating his charges by knowing what to say and when to say it.

When asked if his team's latest loss in St. Louis requires adjustments in areas such as left tackle or kicker, Payton responded like this: "Listen, I think we're looking closely at every element. You know, I told the players today in the team meeting we're looking closely at each aspect of this team."

And indeed on Tuesday, the Saints released kicker Garrett Hartley, two days after one field-goal try was blocked and he hooked another wide in a 27-16 loss at St. Louis.

Foxsports reported that the team would sign veteran kicker Shayne Graham.

The stakes are high this week. The Saints (10-4) can win the NFC South and second-seed in the NFC playoffs with a victory at divisional foe Carolina (10-4), but could be in jeopardy of sliding back to a wild-card spot - or missing the playoffs altogether - with a loss.

Jets playing for Ryan

Rex Ryan's players have raved about his leadership, his passion for the game and his ability to motivate. They laud his competitive spirit and credit him as the force behind the "Play Like A Jet" mantra.

Bart Scott, his former linebacker with the Ravens and Jets, often said players would run through a brick wall for Ryan. This week, guard Willie Colon vowed to shout on his soapbox that Ryan deserves to stay.

Over the last five seasons, a familiar refrain has been uttered by Jets players: Ryan is their guy.

Well, now they get to prove it.

The Ravens' win over the Lions on Monday eliminated the Jets (6-8) from playoff contention.

Bengals punter is out

Bengals punter Kevin Huber says he'll have surgery on Friday to repair his broken jaw, which was injured during a 30-20 loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

- Inquirer wire services