METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton says poor kick and punt coverage had nothing to do with the surprise release of former special-teams captain and veteran linebacker Troy Evans.
Evans was one of five players cut Tuesday night, and by Wednesday, one new player had been added to the roster: second-year linebacker K.C. Asiodu.
Although Asiodu doesn't necessarily expect to replace Evans' leadership role on special teams, he figures his best shot to win a roster spot with the defending Super Bowl champions is to shine on kick coverage.
"If you're not a starter, really, you're a special-teams player, and you have to do it well, and I take it very seriously," Asiodu said. "I'm not trying to come in here and be a captain. I'm just trying to come here and fit it, do what they expect me to do and make plays."
Coaches have said they expect to see some improvement in Friday night's game against the San Diego Chargers.
Asiodu, meanwhile, said the Saints told him that "they really thought I could help them on special teams, and I agree with that."
The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Asiodu began his college career at UNLV, where he started six games as a sophomore in 2006 but played sparingly as a junior because of injuries. He then transferred to Central Oklahoma for his senior season.
Asiodu joined the St. Louis Rams as a rookie free agent in 2009, was cut during the preseason and spent stints on the Rams' and Miami Dolphins' practice squads before he was elevated to St. Louis' active roster for 11 games.
Asiodu played on special teams in all 11 games while nursing a sports hernia that required surgery after the season.
"I'm 100 percent now, feeling great, running faster than ever," he said.
The Saints also entered training camp looking for a linebacker to fill the void left by the departure last winter of starting linebacker Scott Fujita in free agency, but Jonathan Casillas, a second-year pro who was with New Orleans last season, appears to be the front-runner for that role.
Payton said he expects Asiodu to compete for a special-teams spot initially and stressed the Chino Hills, Calif., product wasn't brought in specifically to replace Evans, who had been with New Orleans since 2007 and was special-teams captain the past two seasons.
"It really had nothing to do with how our special teams were playing, and in fairness to Troy, we're rolling a lot of guys through in the kicking game to try to get evaluations," Payton said. "Certainly, it's a tough decision when you part ways with a player like Troy, who's had so much to do with what we've done here."
Notes: Payton said he expects his starters to play the whole first half and possibly some of the third quarter against the Chargers. Patrick Ramsey likely will see the majority of the action at quarterback after Drew Brees leaves the game. Chase Daniel, who is competing with Ramsey to be Brees' backup, played for most the Saints' second preseason game, against the Houston Texans last weekend. ... Payton said the move to trim the roster from 80 to 76 early stemmed in part from the decision to scale back practices to once per day, meaning fewer practice snaps for each player. The roster must be trimmmed to 75 by Aug. 31 and to 53 by Sept. 4. ... Starting CB Tracy Porter returned to practice after missing a day with a sore knee. FS Darren Sharper (left knee) and LB Clint Ingram (left knee) haven't practiced since training camp opened. Rookie TE Jimmy Graham and second-year LB Stanley Arnoux sat out with right ankle sprains.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press