At a time when the Minnesota Vikings defense looks to be as complete as it has been in a couple of months in terms of having their regular starters all ready to suit up and get after it in the final two games of the regular season, one player who has a hard time suppressing a smile is defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Floyd missed three games to injury in late October and November and it was killing him to be on the sidelines. The depth of the roster was tested and has continued to be tested as injuries have hit all three levels of the defense at different times during the season.
Floyd said the adversity the team has faced over the last couple of months has hardened their resolve and made them closer as a group. They may not have their front line rolling in full, but the guys who are out there are going to bring it for 60 minutes – regardless of how many of the anticipated starters are on the field
“This team has been responding really well, even when it comes to losses,” Floyd said. “The camaraderie around the locker room and how we come together on the grass speaks volumes for how we treat each other and how we carry ourselves around here. It’s all family-oriented around here. It’s not about who is starting and who isn’t. We’re a group and you know one thing that’s going on with each and every one of us – we’re going to fight.”
Floyd said that a lot of teams would have struggled had they suffered the losses the Vikings have this season to key personnel, but the Mike Zimmer defense doesn’t change when a star player goes down. The next man up has been schooled the same way and no drop-off in production is expected or tolerated.
“It’s all about the scheme,” Floyd said. “It’s all about the guy that’s next to me and the guys that surround me. I’m more in tune with the defense than the offense, from how I play and how I go, I’m going to pour my cup over every week. I’m going to give everything I’ve got. That’s the mindset going in. I never think, ‘Am I going hard enough? Am I not going hard enough?’ I’m just giving it everything I’ve got.”
Although the “Next Man Up” philosophy has been stretched to its defensive limits and has helped create promising defensive stars of the future, Floyd is borderline giddy about having linemate Linval Joseph back in the lineup.
Floyd has held up well in his role as de facto nose tackle for the Vikings defense, but he’s the first to admit Joseph is the master at playing the nose. “If he’s wearing a towel, just take a peek at that man and you know why he dominates in the middle,” Floyd joked.
Not only has Joseph played at a Pro Bowl level, Floyd is excited about the prospect of Floyd making his return against the team that drafted him. He knows Joseph will have a little extra juice for this game because he wants to show everyone in the Giants organization that they should have ponied up the money to keep him instead of letting him leave via free agency.
“I think there is something to that,” Floyd said of revenge factor coming into play. “That’s the team you started with and that’s the team that believed in you the most. Then they let you go and you find yourself looking them in the face and you have a chance to give them everything you’ve got. I think that’s going to be a good day for him and I’m glad he’s going to be back out there with us.”
Floyd is looking to close out the season strong and achieve the goal the team set back in the early summer months – knock Green Bay from the top of the heap in the NFC North. He’s happy with his performance to date, but said he isn’t doing much in the way of self-evaluation.
He believes he’s more than held up his end of the bargain for executing the game plan, but said his only promise is to those going to war with him on Sunday. Regardless of what implications the game with the Giants has in the bigger scheme of things, he’s going to be preparing like it’s the Super Bowl and has no intention of holding anything back.
He doesn’t do much in-season self-evaluation during the season, but he does have a pledge for his teammates.
“I don’t look back much at myself on tape,” Floyd said. “Maybe at the end of the year I can look back and see the things that I did well and the things I need to keep working on. But when I look at our defense, I look at what we’re all doing to make the team better. I can’t tell you if I thought I had a great game or not, but what I can tell you is that I’m going to give everything I’ve got for my teammates and playing for the guys around me. They can believe I’m going to do my job and I can believe that they’re going to do their job.”