Joseph ‘thankful’ after shooting, returns to Vikings

The team believes Linval Joseph will return to practice before the end of the preseason following a weekend shooting in which he was shot in the calf as a bystander at a downtown Minneapolis night club.

MANKATO, Minn. — Linval Joseph returned to the Minnesota Vikings following a weekend shooting in which he was shot in the calf as a bystander at a downtown Minneapolis night club, and club officials believe the big nose tackle will return for the start of the regular season.

Joseph, Minnesota’s priority free-agent signing in March, was at the Soundbar club early Saturday morning after the Vikings’ preseason opener when gunfire started in the night club, wounding nine people. Joseph, 25, was hit by an errant bullet in the calf. The team said he was taken to a hospital and treated for the wound and released on Saturday morning.

"Linval came back to training camp yesterday, had our doctors and our trainers look at him and we expect him to make a full recovery and definitely be ready by the regular season," Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said Sunday as the team returned to training camp at Minnesota State University. "As we communicated yesterday, what’s most important is Linval was not seriously hurt. We’re fortunate his injury was just minor, but we also want to send our thoughts and prayers to all the victims in the shooting."

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, police were still looking for the gunman in what was described as a gang-related crime. The Star Tribune reported Joseph was in the back of the club with unnamed teammates when the gunfire started in the front of the club at about 1:40 a.m. on Saturday, hours after the Vikings played the Oakland Raiders, a 10-6 win, at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

The Star-Tribune reported nine people suffered gunshot wounds, including one person who needed CPR at the scene and two who were seriously wounded, but in stable condition and expected to recover.

"I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and concerns over the past 24 hours," Joseph said in a statement released by the team on Sunday. "I am extremely thankful that this was a minor injury for me. As the team has communicated, this was an unfortunate situation where I, along with several others, was an innocent bystander to a senseless act. My thoughts are with all of the victims at this time. I am looking forward to getting back onto the field with my teammates in the near future."

The Vikings wouldn’t speak to the specifics of the incident or Joseph’s injury, but the team believes he’ll be ready to play the regular-season opener on Sept. 7 at St. Louis. Joseph was participating in team meetings on Sunday with the team reporting back to training camp.

"He’s a fairly quiet guy anyway so I’m sure it shook him up like it shook all of us up," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "He’s a very high-character, high-quality young man."

It was the first off-field incident for the Vikings since Zimmer was named the team’s ninth head coach in January.

"It was, ‘Oh, my God. And thank God he’s OK,’" Zimmer said of his reaction when he received the phone call of the news. "He’s a terrific young man. He’s a good, good kid and we have a lot of good kids on this football team. Rick has done a really good job of bringing high-quality, high-character players in here, which is one of the things I talk to them about all the time. We want to represent the fans and the state of Minnesota and the Twin Cities as people that want to be known as Vikings and good guys. Unfortunately, this was an unfortunate incident that happened."

Zimmer said Joseph is walking and isn’t on crutches as he recovers from the calf wound.

The Vikings gave Joseph a five-year, $31.25 million contract in the opening hours of free agency in March, believing he would be a big factor in Zimmer’s new defensive system. Joseph was held out of team drills for much of the offseason as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

He started and played two series in Friday’s win.

"I’m sure it’s scary," linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "It could have easily been anybody. But the greatest thing is we have him here. So we go forward with that."

The team believes Joseph will return to practice before the end of the preseason.

Spielman and Zimmer said the team is always reinforcing the importance of being careful off the field.

"I talk to them a lot about a lot of times when people have the stature they are, we have to be aware of our surroundings," Zimmer said. "We have to make sure we understand where we’re going. We’ve got to make sure that we understand it. There’s a chance that people try to make a name for themselves by doing something to somebody, a high-celebrity guy, and we just have to make sure we take of each other and we have to know where we’re at and where we want to go."

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