Big D Excited About Opener With Vikes

While the preseason schedule was finalized and announced Monday, the only regular-season game with a date attached to it is the Vikings hosting Dallas in the opener. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are geared up to face Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper.

Signing a cornerback to play opposite Terence Newman became a bigger priority for the Cowboys when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the Cowboys will open the 2004 season at Minnesota in a nationally televised game at 3:15 p.m. Central Sept. 12 on Fox.

"It will be a real challenge," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "That's a tough place to play. That's a big job to go up there and win that ball game."

"I think [the nationally televised opener] is a testament to where both teams have come in the past couple of years," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "Coach [Bill] Parcells has done a great job of getting that team on the right track. It's going to be a matchup of two very hard-working teams coming right out of training camp."

There had been speculation the Cowboys would be the first opponent for Joe Gibbs' second coming with the Washington Redskins. Instead, Dallas drew Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper.

The Vikings went 9-7 last season, barely missing the playoffs. They dropped seven of their last nine games, including an improbable 18-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on the game's final play.

Minnesota was the league's top-rated offense last season, averaging 393.45 yards per game, while the Cowboys were the league's top-rated defense, allowing an average of only 253.5 yards per game.

While the Cowboys believe they upgraded their pass rush with the addition of defensive end Marcellus Wiley, they have yet to upgrade at cornerback. They hoped to find someone better than Mario Edwards to play on the right side. But with all the top free agents already signed elsewhere, the Cowboys can only hope now they get someone as good as Edwards. With Pete Hunter and Donald Mitchell set to battle for the starting spot, the Cowboys are now considering re-signing Edwards, an unrestricted free agent.

The rest of the schedule hasn't been announced yet but is expected in the coming weeks.

In addition to the Cowboys, the Vikings will play Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, New York Giants, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Seattle at the Metrodome. Away games for the Vikings include Chicago Detroit, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

The Vikings open the preseason on Aug. 14 at the Metrodome against Dennis Green and the Arizona Cardinals. On Aug. 20 they fly to Atlanta for a 6:30 p.m. game, then return home on Aug. 27 for a 7 p.m. game against San Francisco. Minnesota closes out the preseason with an 8 p.m. game Sept. 2 at Seattle.


NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
  • RB Michael Bennett, an avid fisherman, caught a 10 1/2-pound bass while vacationing in Mexico recently. "You don't eat ‘em when they're that big," he said. "That one's gonna' get stuffed."

  • Owner Red McCombs is happy that no changes were made to the NFL's revenue-sharing agreement. "I think it's one of the hallmarks of the NFL; it sets us apart," McCombs said.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anybody who has worked out with him isn't surprised that he's one of the best players in the NFL," Vikings new strength and conditioning coach Kurtis Shultz on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a former client of Shultz's when he was a personal trainer.




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