MANKATO, Minn. —Super Bowl LII is 27 weeks away.
How close are the Vikings?
The question was approached with multiple players in the first week of Verizon Vikings Training Camp and is an annual talker for most teams coast to coast.
The Vikings have a goal in mind to do something that's never been done. They want to become the first team to participate in a Super Bowl in their home venue, U.S. Bank Stadium, which will host the game and be on stage for the world on Feb. 4, 2018.
Linval Joseph helped the underdog New York Giants cap the 2011 season by defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
Joseph is entering his fourth season with the Vikings and coming off his first appearance in the Pro Bowl after recording 100 tackles (coaches' tally), 4.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, 36 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles in 2016.
Asked what goals he has set for himself this year, Joseph said, "Really, it's more team goals."
"I want to try to make history," Joseph said. "Playing in the Super Bowl in your home stadium has never been done. That would be the ultimate goal, so that's the biggest prize I'm trying to work for. That's what you're trying to do here, build it now in training camp."
Joseph is one of four players on the Vikings roster who has been on a team that's played in the Super Bowl. The others are Michael Floyd (inactive for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI), Alex Boone (started for the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII) and Mike Remmers (started for the Panthers in Super Bowl 50).
Joseph was asked to think back to the 2011 Giants team, which started 6-2 and lost four in a row before rallying with three wins in its final four games of the regular season to claim the NFC East with a 9-7 mark. Once the playoffs started, however, the Giants upended the Falcons 24-2 at home and won road games at the Packers 37-20 and 49ers 20-17 before downing the Patriots 21-17. The 56 combined points against them in the playoffs were a far cry from the 49 allowed in one game at New Orleans in Week 12.
"Man, that's so long ago, but I feel like we have all of the opportunities in the world to be better than the team I had in 2011," Joseph said. "The sky is the limit. We have great young talent, guys that want to work, new coaches, new strength coaches. We are making all of the changes in everything we do to go to the top."
Joseph's size and strength have allowed teammates on the defensive line to be highly productive. Defensive ends Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison combined for 28 of the team's 41 sacks last season, and the pass rush is likely to be an essential key to the Vikings defense this year as well.
Joseph was selected as the team's Defensive MVP in 2015 when the Vikings went 11-5 and won the NFC North. Last season, Minnesota opened 5-0 before injuries to multiple offensive players piled up. The Vikings finished 8-8.
Cornerback Terence Newman has more experience than anyone on the Vikings roster. He has started 198 of the 205 games he's played and is preparing for his 15th season.
Playoff wins have been elusive for Newman's past teams. He's started seven of the eight postseason games he's played with the Cowboys, Bengals and Vikings, but the only win in that span was Dallas over Philadelphia after the 2009 season, a week before the Cowboys were dispatched by the Vikings in the Divisional round.
Newman thinks the 2017 Vikings can yield results more like the 2015 team, and he said the decision to return for a third season in Minnesota was "super easy."
He and the Vikings know, however, that the path to the ultimate goal won't be.
"I definitely want to build on what we did that first year, and I think this team is close, to be honest with you," Newman said. "I think we're close to doing some great things, and obviously we've got to work and compete hard. I think we need to be a little bit meaner to each other. Hopefully I see that we have a couple more fights. That lets you know that everyone is really working and guys are getting personal and whatnot. I'm just looking forward to getting back to work with my brothers and having some fun."