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With Joseph Out, Vikings Turn to 'Escalade with a Few Dings'



EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph and safety Andrew Sendejo have been ruled out for Sunday's game against the visiting Seahawks.

Joseph has been mentioned in **Pro Bowl** conversations and ranks second in the NFL among defensive linemen with tackles (54, one behind J.J. Watt, according to press box stats).

View photos of some of the key contributors on the Seattle Seahawks roster in preparation for Sunday's Wild Card playoff game.

The Vikings are likely to start Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson at the two defensive tackle spots. Floyd overcame **numerous obstacles** en route to becoming a collegiate All-America selection at Florida and first-round pick in 2013.

Johnson, on the other hand, managed winding roads after first signing with Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss in 2006 that will be chronicled in this week's Vikings: Beyond the Gridiron episode.

The twists included time working as a salesman at Butch Oustalet Chevrolet Cadillac in Pascagoula, Mississippi, while he was out of football.

He equated himself to "an Escalade with a few dings in it, probably been in an accident in the front; the bumper wasn't probably as shiny or as straight as it should be," during that time.

It took someone to "take a chance on it, take it to the shop, polish it up, work the engine out a little bit, an interior change" for Johnson to return to football.

It still wasn't a clear path for Johnson, who was allocated by the Colts to the Cologne Centurions of the former NFL Europa, spent 2008 in the Arena Football League and played two seasons in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Saints in 2011.

Johnson signed with the Vikings in 2014 on a prove-it or move-it one-year deal and set a career high with 6.5 sacks. He was re-signed to a multiyear deal this offseason and has specialized as the team's nickel rusher. Johnson also started four games this season in place of Floyd.

Johnson said his time in the CFL helped him refine his pass rush ability and technique, and Minnesota's coaches have helped him by putting him in good situations.

"That daily step that you take over time becomes a nice little journey," Johnson said. "It's huge, finding that place where people want you here and really want to see you succeed and benefit you. I give high praise to the coaching staff here, just like [defensive line coach] Coach [Andre] Patterson. Dre sees a guy and utilizes what you do best, and then he tries to put you in position to do things well."

He's reached a point where he can reflect on the time he spent at the dealership, appreciate where he's been and be grateful for where he's at.

"I think it helped you be open to listen to other people, being able to listen to other guys and see how they're approachable," Johnson said. "You've got to be approachable because your first impression is huge on somebody that's going to buy a car from you."

As for Joseph, he's working to return to action as soon as possible.

"Of course it's going to be frustrating, but I'm just glad I can still support my team, use my eyes and be a coach," Joseph said. "I get to see the game from a different aspect. When I see something, I just let the guys know what I see. Hopefully we can get it done."

Next men up: The Vikings have done a good job of filling gaps this season, from Chad Greenway starting his first game ever at middle linebacker against Oakland, to Johnson for Floyd, to Antone Exum Jr. for Harrison Smith last week to Trae Waynes filling in for Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman in separate games.

"That built on our team from camp, the mindset of going hard and giving everything you've got and fighting for the guy next to you," Floyd said, "So man down, man up, and that's just more momentum for the team."

Smith was limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable. He said Exum did we "played great, a fumble recovery, was doing his assignment and made plays" last week.

"I think we have a lot of guys that want to be successful, get in, work hard, know the game plan," Smith said. "The coaches are doing a great job of feeding us that game plan and teaching us the adjustments and things like that."

View photos of some of the key contributors on the Seattle Seahawks roster in preparation for Sunday's Wild Card playoff game.

If Smith returns, Exum could get the call to replace Sendejo. He said game action last week helped him this week.

Within a short span and in separate interviews, Smith and Exum referred to the safety spots in the Vikings scheme as "mirror positions."

"We're expected to know both positions, so at any time you might have to play free or strong," Exum said. "It's a little change of mindset. Strong you might be blitzing and free you might be in the post, so you've just got to flip your mind."

Historical perspective: Sunday's game will feature a matchup will fall during the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and include starts by two African-American quarterbacks, Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater and Seattle's Russell Wilson.

Former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is Wilson's backup, and former Vikings and Seahawks QB and Hall of Famer Warren Moon will be broadcasting the game. Back in February, as part of's "Celebrate Perseverance" content series for Black History Month, we took a look at how Moon helped **pave the way** for future quarterbacks of color so that the lead-up to this weekend's game focuses on the skills of the players.

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