St. Croix’s Linval Joseph Shows Up To Vikings Training Camp Out Of Shape And Overweight
EDEN PRARIE, Minn. — Sharrif Floyd had an urge to see the stars and catch another “Old Wife.”
He and his Vikings teammate Linval Joseph had limited their offseason travels after January’s first-round playoff loss.
The defensive tackles took a few breaks from the team’s training facility to pepper in stops at such favorite Minneapolis kitchens as Smack Shack and Brasa.
“No fun vacations at all,” Joseph said.
Well … Joseph spoke for himself. Floyd called Joseph’s father in July and set up a return to St. Croix — this time on his own.
The St. Croix-born Joseph had introduced Floyd to his family and ocean fishing during a 2014 vacation, months into a fledgling friendship that included “Old Wife,” an oddly nicknamed Caribbean fish catch.
Breaking weight barriers
Joseph’s career began with the Giants in 2010, and he would start the following year in their run to a Super Bowl title. He still bristles at how he was treated as a rookie in New York. Joseph was forced into the background, relying on veterans to ask questions during meetings. His rookie dinner was the typical gluttonous splurge that ate into a lot of the draftee’s signing bonus. With the Vikings, he wants to end those “traditions.”
“Nobody is trying to run up a bill like in the old days,” Joseph said. “When I was a rookie, they really was trying to — ‘Oh, let me get three double shots of Louis XIII or Hennessy X.O.’ I mean just like buy another shot for no reason. And don’t even drink it, just order it.”
Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson and his trio of player ambassadors — Joseph, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen — encourage group involvement in his teaching process that calls for players to reaffirm coaches’ messages, regardless of draft pick position or salary. And veterans even offer to chip in for rookie dinners, according to Floyd.
“Whether it’s the fourth string or the first string, it doesn’t matter,” said Floyd, a Vikings first-round pick in 2013.
Eats like a tide village
Before practices, Patterson often meets with Joseph, Robison and Griffen. Each can then be found walking through lessons with willing teammates. Where Floyd goes, Joseph is nearby.
Patterson offers the emergence of Danielle Hunter, who had six sacks as the NFL’s youngest player last season, as one illustration.
“It’s helped Sharrif, too, because Linval was the first one to put his arms around him,” he added.
Floyd arrived a year before Joseph brought his Super Bowl ring, lucrative five-year contract and willingness to lead. With new coach Mike Zimmer also aboard in 2014, Floyd and Joseph became anchors of his Vikings defense.
Their common backgrounds led to the initial vacation. They started with a trip to Gainesville, Fla., where Floyd attended the University of Florida and Joseph a nearby high school, before visiting Joseph’s family in the Virgin Islands.
“When Linval first got here, him and Sharrif just clicked instantly,” fellow defensive tackle Tom Johnson said. “As a unit we hang out a lot, but those two out of the group are probably the closest.”
Key to success
Their bond is a helpful part of Patterson’s method for the defensive line. A disciplined approach is detailed to each step. Instead of long strides in the one-gap attack of old Vikings defenses, linemen under Zimmer are buckled into controlled footwork. They’re orchestrated to rush together, collapsing onto a quarterback or running back.
The playbook isn’t built for the selfish, Joseph said.
“We’re not that here.”
So, how does that camaraderie actually materialize into tackles and sacks?
“Nods, looks at each other,” Patterson said. “In that scrimmage we had [Aug. 6], it was just a look to [Griffen] and a look to [Johnson] and they ended up running the game that came up in [quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s] face.”
Only four defenses gave up fewer points than the Vikings and just six groups sacked the quarterback more last season.
“There’s nothing that can’t be spoken about,” Floyd said.
Linval Joseph’s stomach is a “tub of goo” after eating too many fish fries on St. Croix.
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John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.