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Joseph Ready To Return For Week One

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - Life is good for Linval Joseph. He is grateful he didn't lose it.

The Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since he was shot in the leg at a nightclub earlier this month. He's on track to play in the season opener, despite being struck by a stray bullet in the left calf during a downtown nightclub disturbance a few hours after the team finished its first exhibition game.

Joseph has been wearing a protective sleeve over the muscle and working out to rebuild his stamina, but said he feels good and that he'll be ready to practice at full speed next week. The Vikings play Sept. 7 at St. Louis.

''I want to thank God for blessing me throughout the situation, because it could've been really worse than what it was. I want to thank my family, my friends, my teammates, the medical staff, for helping me through a speedy recovery,'' Joseph said, adding: ''I just thank God for it just being a clean wound: straight in, straight out.''

Joseph also wished the other victims of the attack well. Nine people were injured, two seriously, in the shooting inside the 400 Soundbar, which has since been closed. Minneapolis police said the gunman had an intended target and that they believe the incident was gang related.

''It was very scary. Now, I just look at every day differently, you know what I mean? Because your life flashes in front of you when something like that happens,'' Joseph said.

This is the 25-year-old Joseph's first season with the Vikings. He left the New York Giants as a free agent for a hefty contract featuring $12.5 million guaranteed over five years with a maximum value of $31.25 million.

The final exhibition game for the Vikings is Thursday at Tennessee, but Joseph will not play.

''I've still been doing my conditioning and I've still been in meetings and I'm still working,'' Joseph said. ''It's not like I've just been laying on my back and I've been on crutches or anything. I've been walking since the incident. I'm good to go.''

Though Joseph declined to divulge specifics of how the shooting unfolded in front of him, he said he considered his question-and-answer session with reporters ''a big step'' toward the psychological and physical healing.

''Let's just get back on the road. Let's win some games,'' Joseph said.

Notes: The Vikings released TE Mike Higgins to reduce their roster to 75 players prior to the Tuesday deadline. They have to trim 22 more by Saturday afternoon. ... SS Jamarca Sanford (quadriceps), RT Phil Loadholt (ankle) remained out of practice Tuesday.

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