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Fox's time with Panthers is ending<br> Carolina will switch coaches after 9 years

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As John Fox left the practice field Friday, he insisted he's known about his impending departure for about two years.

A few hours later, the Carolina Panthers formally announced the end of his nine-year run in which he led the franchise to its only Super Bowl.

In a news release sent 10 minutes after the end of a college football bowl game at the team's stadium that owner Jerry Richardson attended, the Panthers finally announced the contracts of Fox and the rest of his staff wouldn't be renewed after Sunday's game at Atlanta.

"I told John today that I appreciate everything he has done for us over the last nine years, but as happens in this business, it is time for both sides to move in different directions," Richardson said in a statement.

Fox's departure has been no secret, and his last full practice at the Panthers' complex was an odd scene with the Meineke Bowl about to kick off just a few steps away. Fox gathered the players around him shortly before noon, with a burst of laughter heard from players as they broke toward the locker room.

"It's been a lot of great memories, a lot of fond memories, a lot of great relationships and something I'll cherish forever," Fox said. "Now [I'll] just embark on the next chapter."

Fox was first denied a contract extension after the 2008 season. He entered the last year of his deal this fall after the Panthers began a youth movement that's left them an NFL-worst 2-13.

"It's not new," Fox said of his impending departure. "It's something I've been preparing for actually for a couple of years."

A rift had developed between Richardson and Fox since Carolina's 33-13 loss to Arizona in the team's last playoff game in January 2009. Fox was more vocal this season in showing displeasure for several personnel moves that left the Panthers short on experience and talent.


Favre still doubtful

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre has joined the Minnesota Vikings on the field for practice, though he's still not participating in drills. Favre had his red quarterback jersey on but no helmet Friday while the Vikings went through their workout. He didn't take part in any of the activities during the portion of practice that reporters were allowed to watch.

Favre appeared to be in a good mood, dancing on the side while music by Michael Jackson and Vanilla Ice blared on the speakers during stretching and warmups.

Favre is recovering from a concussion that knocked him out of the game against Chicago on Dec. 20. The Vikings play their last game on Sunday at Detroit.


Around the league

*Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley says he has no knowledge of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis possibly taking a similar job with the University of Florida. Various media reports started Weis might leave the Chiefs for Florida after this season.

*The NFL has reduced the fines for Atlanta's Dunta Robinson and New England's Brandon Meriweather, both cited for flagrant hits against defenseless receivers. Robinson's fine was reduced by the league's appeals officer, Ted Cottrell, from $50,000 to $25,000. Meriweather's went from $50,000 to $40,000.

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