METAIRIE, La. -- A day after attending a back-to-school event like a typical 41-year-old father of four, John Kasay was on a morning flight from Charlotte to New Orleans and resuming is two-decade career as an NFL kicker.
"That's how fast life changes," said Kasay, who joined the Saints in time to practice Tuesday evening, two days after Garrett Hartley hurt his right hip while kicking an extra point in New Orleans' victory at Oakland on Sunday night.
As suddenly as Kasay found himself back in the pros, former Saints starting defensive end Alex Brown was looking for a job.
Brown, who has played nine NFL seasons and started every game for New Orleans in 2010, was among 11 players let go by the Saints on Tuesday, when NFL teams were required to trim preseason rosters to 80.
Brown was slated to earn $3 million in base salary this season and the Saints had added depth at his position in the offseason, drafting California standout end Cam Jordan 24th overall last spring, then signing former Detroit defensive end Turk McBride shortly after the NFL lockout ended.
"It was a hard decision. We spent a lot of time on it," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It wasn't that we just drafted a young player at that position. I think you try to factor in all the practice snaps, all the game film and it was something that, after going through it all and also looking at the timing of it, there's still that opportunity within the next week that he'll have a chance to sign with someone else.
"Also, that door's not totally shut if that opportunity presents itself here," Payton added.
That opportunity could present itself for a couple of reasons, one being that Will Smith might have to serve a four-game suspension because he was among several players who tested positive for a banned diuretic in 2008. The NFL has not yet announced when or if it will impose the punishment for those players, which has been delayed by legal proceedings.
Payton, however, said the Saints tried not to allow uncertainty surrounding Smith to figure into their evaluation of Brown.
"We really tried not to because then we'd be making a decision predicated on a possible or not possible suspension," Payton said. "I would say to you honestly that that didn't come into play, because if it had come into play more, then we might have gone in a different direction."
As a rookie out of Florida, Brown started nine games for Chicago in 2002 and has remained a full-time starter for most of his career, including for all 48 regular season games since 2008.
Last season he had 39 tackles and two sacks. Now the question is who will start in his place.
"We're going to have to look closely at our rotation," Payton said. "Obviously we're going to substitute a handful of guys in there."
McBride took first-team snaps on Tuesday, while Jordan sat out practice. Payton said Jordan's absence was "injury-related" but declined to elaborate. Smith also did not practice, but was excused because of a death in the family, Payton said.
McBride started eight games for the Lions last season. He said he did not necessarily see himself as a starter now that Brown was gone.
"That's not my job to start thinking about that. My job is to come on this turf and go as hard as I can," McBride said. "I still have to go out there and prove myself."
Meanwhile, Payton declined to say how long Hartley would be out, and Kasay said he considers his employment with the Saints as "day to day."
He's expected to kick on Thursday night when the Saints host Tennessee in their preseason finale.
Payton said the Saints were comfortable signing Kasay because they had an opportunity to see him make clutch kicks firsthand when he was with NFC South rival Carolina. Kasay hit a 52-yard winning field goal in the final seconds in the Superdome in 2007 and a 42-yard winner in the dome, again in the final seconds, in 2008.
Last season, Kasay made 25 of 29 attempts, including a 55-yarder. He was cut by Carolina about a month ago, but said he continued training in case he got a call from another club.
"I am not as young as I use to be. I am not fooling anybody with that, but there have been a handful of guys who have done very well playing into their 40s," Kasay said, mentioning Morten Anderson, John Carney, Gary Anderson, Matt Stover and Jason Hanson. "It's a privilege to be able to play and to do the same thing I was doing as a kid. ... I can't run, I can't throw, I can't catch, I can't block and I can't tackle, and this is my 21st year in the NFL."