Carolina Panthers

Unrelenting heat causing Panthers to alter schedule

SPARTANBURG -- When coach John Fox decided to fiddle with his training camp schedule, the goal was to make things easier on his players.

It's turning out to be little relief, since a stretch of three straight days with 3 p.m. practices has coincided with the record heat wave that's blanketed the area.

The heat index was 115 on Thursday afternoon, one click up from Wednesday's 114 and trumping Tuesday's 110. Mix in a Wednesday morning practice when it was cooler but more humid, and players are leaving drained.

Fullback Brad Hoover said Thursday he lost 11 pounds during a single practice the day before, but four hours later he had gained back 16, thanks to the three bags of intravenous fluids and all the water and sports drinks he was downing.

Fox actually cut Thursday's practice about 20 minutes short to account for the heat, and made sure to remind his players to hydrate throughout the work.

"They did good. They sucked it up," Fox said. "We cut it back as far as time. We took the precautions, and I thought they did good."

They'll get a break now, with only a morning walk-through in shorts and shells before the bus back to Charlotte. They'll fly to New York later this afternoon for Saturday's preseason opener against the Giants.

• LOOKING FOR FITS: The Panthers are currently working Deke Cooper as the starting free safety, but Fox indicated that Nate Salley was destined for that role once he returned from a knee injury. Salley's been held out the last eight days since landing awkwardly on his right knee. They're just saying he's "day-to-day," and he seems to be nearing a return.

But prior to Mike Minter's retirement, Salley was working at strong safety, and that's where trade acquisition Chris Harris is now. Fox was asked if the two could play together, and he said he didn't envision a problem.

"That's kind of where we're looking at heading," he said of a Salley-Harris tandem. "But until Nate gets back out there, I don't know. As far as them being together, they should be fine.

"Really, you've got to be interchangeable in this league anyway, because the offense can dictate it one way or another."

• HAPPY RETURNS: Linebacker Na'il Diggs, the projected starter on the weakside, returned to practice for the first time since pulling his right hamstring the second day of camp.

In his absence, the Panthers shifted James Anderson to that side since rookie Jon Beason was holding out, and those two continued to take the bulk of the work Thursday.

"We're bringing him back cautiously," Fox said. "He moved around and looked like he's doing good so far."

Cornerback Derrick Strait also got back to work after his own hamstring pull.

• EXTRA POINTS: This morning's walk-through was initially scheduled for 10:45 a.m., but Fox moved it an hour earlier to 9:45 a.m. to accommodate the Panthers' travel schedule. The session should last roughly an hour and a half. ...

The list of players being held out with injuries is shrinking. Salley, receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Justin McCullum, running back Alex Haynes and tight end Chad Upshaw had the afternoon off.

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