Notebook: Vikings returning to 'Dome, where no games are sold out yet
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The last time the Minnesota Vikings played at the Metrodome, Brett Favre started at quarterback, Leslie Frazier was interim coach and the heroes in a 38-14 win over the Buffalo Bills were Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice.
It was Dec. 5, seven days before the dome's roof collapsed in a snowstorm and forced the Vikings to move their last two "home" games to Detroit's Ford Field and TCF Bank Stadium, respectively.
They'll return on Saturday night for an exhibition against Dallas, playing under a new roof and on the new turf that replaced the surface snow damaged after it poured onto the field.
"There were so many things going through my mind when that happened," Frazier said on Wednesday. "But I'm glad that we are coming back and playing in front of our fans at Mall of America Field. I mean, that's a big deal I'm sure for all of our fans and our players as well, not to have to wonder where we're going to play our next game."
Nearly half of the players on the 90-man roster weren't with the Vikings on that day 8½ months ago. That includes quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose last visit to the Metrodome yielded a 26-14 playoff win with the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 4, 2009.
"I'm looking forward to coming out of a different locker room," McNabb said. "The opposing locker room feels like it's 5 miles away from the stadium, walking and going down all those steps.
"I'm just looking forward to the fans' reaction and for us going out and making plays and hearing the roar a little bit. The anticipation, I'm sure, is growing for the fans as well as for us."
No games sold out yet
The Vikings have sold close to 4,000 new season tickets for this year, but the team is short of where it finished last season in ticket sales and no game is sold out yet, according to chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix.
LaCroix declined to get into specifics of where season-ticket sales where at, but he said the team completed last season with around 55,000 season tickets sold.
"We're not at that number yet, but we're working as hard as we can," to get there, LaCroix said.
The Vikings will open their home schedule on Sept. 18 against Tampa Bay. "There's some good availability at different price levels for that game," LaCroix said.
NFL rules require a game to be sold out 72 hours in advance or it can be blacked out in the home market.
Herrera to start
Barring a setback, Anthony Herrera will start at right guard on Saturday night -- the latest step in his recovery from knee reconstruction and triceps surgery.
"We anticipate starting him and giving him a chance to go out and compete and just see where he is," Frazier said. "We'll have an idea (of), can we get him to that first (regular-season) ballgame or not?"
Herrera is less than nine months removed from surgery to repair his left knee, which remains braced and heavily bandaged during practice. He has shown progress during drills this week, though, and Frazier said the plan is to play Herrera for at least a quarter on Saturday.
The Vikings are running out of time to decide if they need to find another alternative after Scott Kooistra's season-ending neck injury in Seattle. Ryan Cook likely would be the next man in, although Chris DeGeare took a one-on-one snap at right guard on Wednesday and could end up in the mix again as well.
Another shot for Sherels
Marcus Sherels redeemed himself after fumbling a punt return in last weekend's preseason win over Seattle by returning an interception for a touchdown on the next series.
He'll get another shot in the return game, too. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he wants to let Sherels field the first punt again on Saturday night.
"It was disappointing what happened to him last week, but I still have a lot of faith in what he can accomplish for us," Priefer said. "Hopefully, he'll do well with his opportunities."
Sherels is averaging 6.0 yards on four returns in the preseason, with a long of 16. Jaymar Johnson had a 40-yarder on one of his two chances. Lorenzo Booker got the first two chances in the exhibition opener at Tennessee but didn't return either.
Priefer said the decision likely will go down to the preseason finale on Sept. 1 against Houston. But he made clear he has been impressed with Sherels and appreciated that the former Gopher didn't hang his head after the fumble -- even though he'd just violated Priefer's No. 1 rule for return men.
"He's really good in practice with ball security," Priefer said. "I think right at the end, their linebacker (Matt McCoy) came in and punched it in. Good play by him. We've just got to do a better job at the end of the play, finishing the play."
• Coaches still are discussing how long to play the rest of the offensive starters against Dallas. But Frazier hinted they could go a series into the second half. "We're going to play them an extended period for this ballgame," Frazier said. "We'll see how things go when we get in at halftime, but we're going to give them more time than we've given them in the first two games."
• No determination has been made on whether rookie Christian Ponder or Joe Webb will be the No. 2 quarterback on Saturday night either, although Ponder has appeared to take more second-team reps this week in practice.
• The Vikings' specialists tried out the Metrodome's new turf, Frazier said, but there were no plans for the full squad to do so before Saturday.
• Frazier dismissed the notion he's disappointed neither Tyrell Johnson nor Jamarca Sanford has emerged to take the starting job halfway through the exhibition schedule. "If they were not playing well, and nobody was really stepping up, then that would be problematic," Frazier said. "But they're both playing well, and that's good for us. So, whoever wins the position, we should be stronger because of it. It's a good battle, and it may just last throughout the preseason." Sanford is expected to start on Saturday.
• The Vikings waived rookie WR Domonique Johnson and signed rookie LB Kyle O'Donnell, a 24-year-old undrafted rookie out of Liberty whom the Washington Redskins waived on Aug. 6.
• Frazier declined a chance to answer former Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie's remarks about his departure after signing a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. "I just wish Bryant the best," Frazier said. "I like Bryant. He was a good player for us here in Minnesota. I hope things work out well for him in Baltimore."
Judd Zulgad contributed.