New Vikings defensive tackle hid injury while with Giants
MANKATO, Minn. – Linval Joseph was playing in the media mecca of New York. Still, he managed to keep his injury a secret.
“I kept it to myself,” Joseph said.
Joseph finally revealed after the season the pain he had been experiencing and went to a doctor. The extent of his shoulder injury required surgery.
Joseph, though, didn’t return to the Giants. He signed a five-year, $31.5 million contract last March as a free agent with the Vikings.
The fifth-year man was limited in practices throughout the spring while recovering from surgery.
But he was at full strength when he showed up for training camp, which began Friday at Minnesota State-Mankato.
“Back in the (organized team activities), it was more just getting everything cleared and making sure everything was OK,” Joseph said. “And I’m ready to go. … I feel great coming in here, and I’m ready to go win games and take us to the promised land.”
Joseph has been there before. As a second-year man in 2012, he helped lead the Giants to a win in Super Bowl XLVI in his first season as a starter.
Joseph started the next two years as well. He said he had to make adjustments while appearing in 15 games in 2013 despite his injury.
“I played through it,” he said. “By me being hurt, it showed me a different side of my game. So I just had to get smarter, quicker and just study and use just straight power. So it actually developed my game to the next level.”
Now, the 6-foot-4 Joseph, 25, is continuing to refine his game. Many on the Vikings believe he is ready to break loose at nose tackle.
“(Friday) was actually the first day that I really have seen him,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He came in at tremendous looking physical shape. He weighs 317 pounds and is benching 500 pounds. Watching him out there at (Friday morning’s) walk-through, which does not mean anything, he looks like a nose tackle is supposed to look like.”
The Vikings have new starters at both defensive tackle spots, and both have been dropping plenty of weight. Sharrif Floyd, who gave up meat last March when he weighed 330 pounds, said he’s now down to 300.
Floyd is a second-year man who is taking over for departed free agent Kevin Williams. He looks up to Joseph, replacing Letroy Guion, who was released.
“I think (Joseph is) going to be a great player, and I’m keeping myself around him because I like him as a person and as a football player,” Floyd said. “I hang around him a lot. I try to be with him as much as I can. He’s really smart. He knows the game.”
The Vikings honed in on Joseph at the start of free agency. He was their most decorated signee.
“He’s a big, physical presence,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “But he can also run. He’s got the speed. He’s got the size. I think guys, if they try to put a center one on one with him, they’re going to have problems.”
Zimmer likes big, physical guys at nose tackle. Joseph said Zimmer’s players at that position also need to have another quality.
“They’re very smart guys,” Joseph said. “You got to adapt to a lot of different blocking schemes and just know a lot of things happening and just call out things when you see it.”
Naturally, Joseph said he considers himself smart. Now that he’s also healthy, he doesn’t deny he could be in line for a breakout season.