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Defensive tackle Joseph hopes for rebound year with Vikings

MANKATO, Minn. - Linval Joseph has been to a Super Bowl. Now, he figures it's time for a Pro Bowl. The 26-year-old defensive tackle, who won a ring with the New York Giants in 2011, signed a five-year, $31.5 million free-agent contract in 2014 wi...

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Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph (98) signed a five-year, $31.5 million with the team prior to the 2014 season. USA Today Sports

MANKATO, Minn. – Linval Joseph has been to a Super Bowl. Now, he figures it’s time for a Pro Bowl.
The 26-year-old defensive tackle, who won a ring with the New York Giants in 2011, signed a five-year, $31.5 million free-agent contract in 2014 with the Vikings. But his first year with the team was a bit of a disappointment, with Joseph missing time in spring drills after shoulder surgery and then being out three weeks in August after being hit in the leg by a stray bullet.
But Joseph is healthy now. He has his sights set on a trip to Hawaii next January for the Pro Bowl.
“That’s the goal,” the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Joseph said at training camp. “I think I’m capable of being that kind of player, and I think this year is going to be my year to show it. Last year was a rough start, and this year it’s starting off great, and that’s how I want to keep it.”
The mere mention of Joseph’s name excites Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. He loves big, athletic nose tackles.
“Almost always, the guy that comes in as a free agent into a new system, his second year is almost always much better than the first year,” Zimmer said. “And with all that (Joseph) missed last year because of the injury. ... I anticipate he’s going to have a very, very good year. ... He’s a big, strong man; his body is in good shape. He’s a very, very good athlete.”
Joseph was a limited in spring drills when he arrived in Minnesota after January 2014 surgery for a partially torn labrum he suffered while with the Giants.
He was getting into the groove at training camp before an Aug. 9 incident. That night, hours after the team’s first preseason game, he was an innocent bystander at a Minneapolis nightclub. Shots rang out in the bar, and Joseph was one of nine people wounded.
He was grazed in the calf, suffering an injury that knocked him out of the team’s final three preseason games before he returned to start the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at St. Louis.
“I missed a lot last year from (organized team activities) to training camp, so I had a slower start than everybody else,” Joseph said. “I mean, missing that time, being shot, altogether was a lot to overcome.”
Joseph, a six-year veteran, said the shooting incident changed him. It made him realize how precious life is.
“Now I don’t take anything for granted,” Joseph said. “I take one day at a time and just try to be the best that I can be at everything. It was an accident. It happened. But now, I make sure I just am a lot more cautious in a lot of things that I do, because my life is too valuable. Everybody’s life is valuable, and I don’t want that ever to happen again.”
After getting off to a slow start, Joseph played better in the second half of the 2014 season. He finished ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus out of 81 NFL defensive tackles in a 4-3 scheme.
“I think he’ll be 10 times better (this season),” defensive end Brian Robison said. “I think he’s looked good throughout (spring drills). I think he’s got an opportunity to be a big weapon for us. He’s a big presence there in the middle that can move around, that can really do a lot of things for us.”
For the first time since 1983, the Vikings had no Pro Bowl players last season. Many believed defensive end Everson Griffen, who had 12 sacks, should have been selected.
Griffen said one of his goals this year is to make the Pro Bowl. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Joseph is on hand for the Jan. 31 game in Honolulu.
“He can be that guy,” Griffen said. “He’s 320 pounds (of) lean muscle. He can run, he can sprint, he can do it all. He’s a smart guy. He’s work hard. He always works in the weight room extra. He’s always running extra.”
Joseph started 46 of the 47 games he played for the Giants from 2011-13 and was considered a player with breakout potential. He believes the time has come to meet those expectations.
“I feel great,” Joseph said. “I’m one year under the system, so I feel like this year should be better. I’m healthy. Everything is going well. I feel like I’ve got my step back and I’m ready to go.”

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