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Linval Joseph's Goal: 'Always Be Better Than Last Year'

When the Vikings host the Saints Sept. 11 on *Monday Night Football, *it will mark the first time Linval Joseph has opened a season at home since joining Minnesota as a free agent in 2014.

The Vikings last year opened their brand-new home against the Packers in Week 2. Thinking back to the electricity of that night, Joseph can't wait to experience it this year in Week 1.

"I just feel like it's going to be like starting in the brand-new stadium all over again," Joseph said this spring. "Just like it was last year with the Packers – it was just loud, a lot of energy – I think it's going to be that type of atmosphere again."

Another difference for Joseph likely will be being on the field at the same time as Adrian Peterson, who signed with New Orleans as a free agent.

While it will certainly be odd playing against Adrian Peterson rather than sharing a locker room with him, Joseph isn't losing sight of the end goal.

"It's football," Joseph said. "At the end of the day, it's football. Adrian, it doesn't matter who we're hitting, we're just trying to win the game."

Beyond opening night, however, the 2017 season will hold a number of familiarities for Joseph, who's now at home in Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's defensive system. There's a striking number of similarities between this year's schedule and the 2016 lineup, including another late-season trip to Green Bay.

Between his careers with the Giants and Vikings, Joseph has now faced the Packers nine times.

"I've been playing in Lambeau my whole career, and at the end of the season," Joseph said. "So you just have to get your mind right. You know the field's not going to be the best, you know it's going to be cold. You just have to play your best football and try to come out with a win.

"Until you do it maybe two or three times, that's when you really settle down," Joseph added. "Because it's different playing out there."

The defensive tackle feels confident facing any offense from within a Vikings defensive corps that's changed very little in Joseph's three seasons in Minnesota.

Especially on the defensive line, consistency has been key. Since day one with the Vikings, Joseph has often knelt beside Tom Johnson or Shamar Stephen, who rotated in at 3-technique when Sharrif Floyd missed all of 2016 with an injury. And on the ends, the line has been anchored by Everson Griffen and Brian Robison with increased contributions from 2015 draft pick Danielle Hunter.

Even outside the hash marks, Minnesota's defensive linemen have formed a bond that will withstand tremendous pressure.

"We're all brothers, and we all support each other no matter what – on and off the field," said Hunter, who joined Joseph, Johnson and Griffen in Wabasha, Minnesota, this spring to support Robison's foundation fishing tournament. "It's like a big family. We have each other's backs, and it's just a brotherhood."

Joseph expressed similar sentiments.

"We're family," he said. "Going on four years and being around the same guys every single day, just building that bond."

Added Joseph: "They have my back, and I have theirs, too."

At 6-4 and 329 pounds, Joseph is often capable of holding his own against opposing offensive linemen, however.

Hunter, a pillar of muscle himself, called Joseph the strongest person he's ever seen.

"I think Linval could possibly be one of the strongest dudes to ever play nose," Hunter said. "He's a man down there. When he's on the field, you don't have anything to worry about because he's going to take care of his job."

In 2016, Joseph recorded 100 total tackles (48 solo) by coaches' tally, seven tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and 36 quarterback hurries.

As he looks ahead to his fourth season in Purple, Joseph has just one personal objective in mind: be better.

"At the end of the day, when you play this game, you're always going to be better or worse – you're never going to stay the same," Joseph said. "My goal is just to always be better than the last year."

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