Notebook: Herrera taking over at center

Lineman don't always get noticed, but Anthony Herrera is making an adjustment to center and seeing some success in John Sullivan's extended absence. It could be a move that sticks for a while. Plus, get more than 20 notes that help tell the tale of the game.

For the most part, when they're doing their jobs, offensive linemen are largely anonymous. Unless an analyst points out a key block made by a lineman, by and large, they don't get noticed until they commit a penalty.

But in Saturday's 24-13 win over the Seattle, the offensive line was the center of attention, primarily because their starting center remains out of the lineup.

John Sullivan, who has been sidelined much of training camp and the first three preseason games, was in street clothes on the sideline and the center position was manned by starting right guard Anthony Herrera and backup center Jon Cooper.

Herrera said that he has experience snapping the ball in both the standard formation and in the shotgun, something his college coach Phil Fulmer at Tennessee insisted on all of his linemen being able to do.

While Herrera only moved about six feet from his natural position, playing guard and playing center couldn't be much more different.

"It's extremely different," Herrera said. "It's just a different monster unto itself moving from guard to center. You're snapping the ball to the quarterbacks and making the line calls. It's going to take some adjusting, but I like doing it and I'm playing football – which I love to do. I just have to keep working and keep getting better."

Steve Hutchinson said he helped out Herrera with some of the line calls when he could, as well as trying to keep rookie guard Chris DeGeare on point when Herrera moved from guard to center. But he said this is something the Vikings have been working on throughout training camp. While the hope is that it won't have to carry into the regular season, he said this isn't something unchartered for the linemen to do.

"Those have been things that we've been doing in practice on a daily basis with Sully out," Hutchinson said. "You're always working different combinations like that, especially in training camp, because there are different guys that are expected to either start or back up at different positions. Right now, it's a fairly common practice for us to move around like that. Once you get to the regular season, normally you want to stick with the five (offensive linemen) and go with it. That's how you build continuity. But at this point of the year, it is something we can work with to see what works."

Whether the work now will be more for experience or practical application if Sullivan isn't ready for the regular season opener Sept. 9 at New Orleans remains an uncertainty.

"It's a possibility," head coach Brad Childress said. "We got a look at him last week. He was in the second series of the game last week with the zero nose guard – with the guy playing right off his nose. You just want to know what guy you are going to play with, if he plays there and what you are going to get."

When asked if he could envision himself starting at center against the Saints, Herrera said he isn't sure – and isn't sure anyone is.

"I don't know," Herrera said. "I get paid to play. The coaches make their decisions. They're giving me this work until Sully comes back."

Although not overly familiar with playing center, Herrera said anything that keeps him on the field, whether at guard or center, is fine with him.

"I like doing it," Herrera said. "I like playing football period. The more you can do – whatever they want me to do – I'll do it. It will take some time to get accustomed to it, but I like doing it."

The biggest problem for Herrera isn't the change of the position so much as it is the change of temperament. As a guard, Herrera can be a mauler. As a center, he has to take things a lot easier and not be as bullish as he can be at guard. The change in playing philosophy causes its own set of problems and Herrera said it's a totally different animal. When asked if it changes his preparation, he said there is no question about it.

"It does, because playing at center, you can't be aggressive," Herrera said. "You can't get out of your box. You've just to stay calm, because of everything you have to do – making the (line) calls and the snap count. It's just a fact of having to calm down and play."

Ideally, the Vikings will have Sullivan available when they meet the Saints Sept. 9, but, if he can't go, the team is getting a decent impression of what they will be up against and it may be Herrera that ends up snapping the ball to Brett Favre once games start for real.

GAMEDAY NOTES

  • The Vikings finished the game with 358 total yards (246 passing, 112 rushing), while Seattle could muster just 286 yards (242 passing, 44 rushing).

  • The biggest difference in the game may have been on third down. The Vikings converted 50 percent of their third downs on offense (8 of 16), while the Seahawks converted just two of 15 (13 percent).

  • The Vikings held the ball for 37:08 of the game, despite running just 10 more plays than Seattle.

  • Favre didn't have the most impressive of days, completing 16 of 26 passes for 187 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 51.3. Sage Rosenfels completed 5 of 6 passes for 71 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 155.6 and Joe Webb completed his only pass for a 7-yard touchdown – for a passer rating of 135.4.

  • The Vikings averaged just 3.4 yards a carry, led by Adrian Peterson with 11 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown and Toby Gerhart, who carried seven times for 30 yards.

  • Thirteen different Vikings caught passes, led by newcomer Greg Camarillo, who caught four passes for 47 yards.

  • For Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards and no touchdowns and backup Charlie Whitehurst completed 12 of 26 passes for 138 yards and an interception. The team ran just 15 times for 44 yards and 11 different players caught at least one pass.

  • After missing most of the last two weeks, Percy Harvin was something a surprise addition the starting lineup. He had a couple of catches in the first half, but got lit up by rookie safety Earl Thomas in the third quarter and stayed on the ground for a few seconds before heading off the field under his own steam.

  • Rookie Chris Cook had another solid game, but left the game with a knee injury. He had an ice bag wrapped around his right knee on the sidelines.

  • The Vikings were extremely unsettled up front. With starting center John Sullivan out of the game with a lingering calf/ankle injury, Herrera started the game at center, but alternated series with backup center Jon Cooper.

  • It would seem the clock management with Seattle needs to get a little work before the regular season starts. At the start of the third quarter, Seattle burned two timeouts while it had on the ball on its first drive of the half.

  • The Vikings dominated just about everything in the first half except on the scoreboard. The Vikings had 223 yards (162 passing, 63 rushing) to just 98 for Seattle (78 passing, 20 rushing). The Vikings held the ball for 20:46 of the first half and ran almost twice as many plays (38) as the Seahawks. The Vikings were 4 of 7 on third-down conversions, while Seattle failed to convert any of its five third-down chances.

  • Individually, Favre completed 14 of 21 passes for 174 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in the first half. Shiancoe led the way with three receptions for 28 yards and three others – Peterson, Camarillo and Harvin each caught two passes. Peterson rushed 11 times for 37 yards and a touchdown and Gerhart had five carries for 24 yards.

  • For Seattle in the first half, Hasselbeck completed 8 of 12 passes for 84 yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught two passes for 23 yards, making him the only player with more than one reception. Washington had six carries for 16 yards rushing.

  • Gerhart got his first action of the game in the second quarter and responded with a pair of power runs that gained 7 and 9 yards, respectively. It is the kind of running the Vikings are expecting from him as he replaces Chester Taylor.

  • After a scoreless first quarter, both teams got the scoreboard moving in the second quarter. After a 31-yard screen pass to Peterson put the Vikings in scoring position, Favre attempted a slant to Berrian. He put the ball on target, but Berrian mishandled the ball, popping it into the air, where rookie safety Earl Thomas grabbed the ball in stride and brought it back 83 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Darius Reynaud returned the kick 73 yards to put the Vikings on the Seattle 23-yard line. After a 1-yard loss by A.P. on the first play of the drive, he broke off a 24-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7 exactly one minute after Seattle had taken a 7-0 lead.

  • Antoine Winfield made his presence felt late in the first quarter with a pair of tackles out on an island – stopping tight end John Carlson on a screen and bringing down Washington on a sweep his way to force the Seahawks to punt from deep within their own territory.

  • The Vikings dominated most of the first-quarter stats, holding the ball for 10:28 of the quarter. The Vikings had 82 yards (70 passing, 12 rushing) to just 30 for the Seahawks (16 rushing, 14 passing). The Vikings converted four of five third downs, while Seattle made good on none of their three third-down chances.

  • Individually, Favre completed seven of 10 passes for 82 yards – completed two each to Camarillo, Harvin and Shiancoe. Peterson had all eight of the Vikings' rushing attempts, but gained just 12 yards. For Seattle, Hasselbeck completed just two of four passes for 14 yards – 13 of them coming on a completion to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Washington had all of the team's rushing attempts, carrying six times for 16 yards.

  • After a disappointing first drive of the game, the Vikings took control of momentum with a textbook drive that took more than nine minutes off the game clock. The marathon 16-play drive began at the Vikings 33-yard line and included four third-down conversions. Three of those came on Favre passes – a 7-yard strike to Shiancoe and passes of 22 and 12 yards to Camarillo. The Vikings had a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but four rushing attempts to Peterson failed and gave Seattle the ball on the 2-yard line with the game still scoreless and a nine-minute, 18-second drive netted nothing.

  • Seattle got the got the first big break of the game when Chris Clemons blew past Bryant McKinnie and got a sack on Favre, who fumbled and gave Seattle a golden opportunity deep in Vikings territory at the 28-yard line. The Seahawks tried to run the ball on the Vikings, but Washington was stuffed for 1-yard gains on both second and third down to bring on the field goal team. Kicker Olindo Mare made a field goal from 38 yards, but an illegal formation penalty made him re-kick and he pushed the field goal wide right to keep the game scoreless.

  • The paid attendance was 63,550 – the 126th straight sellout at the Metrodome dating back to 1998.


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