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'Guys were cheering and hooting and hollering in the locker room.'- Packers quarterback Brett Favre, on being told practice would be held in shorts rather than full pads.

Coaches play it cool

For two weeks, the Carolina Panthers caught a break from the South Carolina weather. They practiced under clouds and in the breeze, and had no problems. Then it warmed up, with temperatures reaching the 90s. Combined with oppressive humidity, it made for the hottest day of camp Wednesday.

"I think [Corey Stringer's] fatality - and other fatal cases we've had in the last month - will force changes," says Minnesota receiver Cris Carter. Cleveland coach Butch Davis gave his players Wednesday off and took them swimming. Green Bay coach Mike Sherman changed the two practices Wednesday so players could work out in shorts instead of full pads. "I think it's the smart thing to do," Packers quarterback Brett Favre said.

US gymnasts rebuild

After their disappointing showing at the Sydney Olympics, most of the US women's gymnastics team left for college and never looked back.

Their departure means the Americans are in for a massive rebuilding effort - the same spot they were in after the 1996 Olympics. "We lost so many of our top girls, and it's going to be hard this year at worlds [later this fall]," said Tasha Schwikert, the only returning Olympian and the favorite to win this week's US Gymnastics Championships in Philadelphia. The good news is there's help on the way. The crop of juniors, including two-time champ Kristal Uzelac, Carly Patterson, and Kaitlin White, is hugely talented, and some say they could be the best the United States has ever had.

Local Hero

Cal Ripken Jr. homered in his first at-bat Wednesday night, giving the retiring Baltimore Orioles star a home run in all five of his "farewell cities" since the All-Star break.

Ripken hit a 1-1 pitch from Kansas City right-hander Chad Durbin 392 feet to left field to stretch his hitting streak to 16 games, one short of his career high. He has homered in every road park since the break - Atlanta, Florida, Texas, Anaheim, and Kansas City.

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