Joseph’s fine season ‘a stepping stone’

Linval Joseph is happy to be recognized as a top-100 player in the NFL, but he’s intent to lead by example in hopes the Vikings ascend to the top of the defensive rankings.

If you were to ask fans who was the Minnesota Vikings defensive MVP, you will likely get several votes for guys like Everson GriffenAnthony Barr and Harrison Smith. But, if you were to ask the players, you get one name that keeps coming up again and again – Linval Joseph.

Joseph’s first year with the Vikings in 2014 wasn’t dominating. It was very good, but it wasn’t smothering and oppressive. At season’s end, he wasn’t happy with his performance and vowed that he would come back with a vengeance in 2015.

He did.

Few defensive tackles were as disruptive or as dominating as Joseph. He was critical to the Vikings’ success, especially late in the season to help lock down the division title.

But, as Joseph sees it, what is past is past. The Vikings have momentum building, but it doesn’t mean a thing unless they use 2015 as a foundation piece to continue an ongoing process.  “It’s a new year,” Joseph said. “Right now, we’re hungry. We know what we have to do and our biggest goal right now is not to take a step backward. We need to keep moving forward. We’ve got some young guys coming along and we’re trying to show them the way. You have to be humble in this situation. You can’t get caught up in the improvement you made last year. Everything is back to zero and you have to prove yourself all over again.”

Opponents of the Vikings are aware of how impressive Joseph can be at the point of attack and they proved it last month when Joseph was named No. 76 on the 2016 Top 100 Players in the NFL, a list compiled from players that were surveyed.

Getting the acknowledgement of his peers was gratifying, but Joseph doesn’t see it as the be-all and end-all of his achievements as a player. He felt he was going to have the kind of season that was worthy of recognition, but didn’t feel any obligation to actually acknowledge it himself.


“It was good to get the recognition from the players around the league, but to me it’s just a stepping stone,” Joseph said. “I have to get better. This year, I’m going to go out there to prove it and do the best I can do. I’m going to push everybody on the defense to prove it themselves. We know what we have to do to get our job done.”

It is that work ethic that has made Joseph a leader on the defense. He can be emotional, but he’s not a “rah-rah” type of player.

His leadership manifests itself by challenging his teammates to be as focused and committed as he is. He doesn’t need to shout down everyone in the room to make his point. He doesn’t need to shatter a blackboard with his fist.

He gets the job done by his work ethic and, along the way, has developed some followers.  “Being a leader comes in a lot of different ways,” Joseph said. “You can be a leader by example and you can be a leader by just ballin’ and showing people that you come to play every down. I’m a guy who tries to lead by example. If people see me working hard and it gets them working harder to be great, we all get better as a result. It’s not bragging when you get noticed for hard work and I think we have a lot of guys of this team that get some recognition for their leadership in their own ways, but it all comes back to working hard and showing others by your example of how to do your business.”

As the Vikings start winding up the process of preparing for the 2016 season, the potential for a dominating defense is a front-burner topic around Winter Park. The team showed flashes of what it could be in 2014. It consistently showed dominance in 2015.

For 2016?

“I think we can be as good as we want to be and end up being the best defense in the league this year,” Joseph said. “When we’re all on the same page, minimize mistakes and stay healthy, I think we can’t be stopped. I feel the same about our whole team. We all know what we’re capable of doing. We just have to go out and do it.”

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