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Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

Finally full strength: Joseph back at practice after grueling rehab

The Vikings have three practices before Saturday’s third preseason game, in which starters could play up to the first half, against the Cardinals.

Nose tackle Linval Joseph, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, was cleared for full team drills Tuesday. Head coach Mike Zimmer would not say whether Joseph will play Saturday against the Cardinals.

Walking off the practice field after going through team drills for the first time, Joseph finally opened up about his offseason road to recovery and how he’s not only back to full strength, but “Way stronger than I was last year.”

The Vikings starting nose tackle thanked the Vikings medical, strength and athletic training staffs for bringing him back, at age 30, from what he called the toughest season he’s endured physically in what’s now a 10-year NFL career.

“Last year, after Week 5, when Danielle [Hunter] hit me in my leg, I want to say that was the hardest season I ever had to play,” Joseph said. “Just my whole leg, my whole arm [hurting], I fought through it. I did it for my guys and gave it everything I had.

“I think the [rehab] stuff I was doing off the field [to come back] was way harder than practice. So to be back out here actually is a relief.”

Joseph said he isn’t sure if he’ll play Saturday. Either way, he said team practice reps are all he would need to get ready for the regular season.

“Preseason for me at this point is to sharpen up my tool,” Joseph said. “Nothing really can get accomplished in preseason for me team-wise. But just for my individual working on stunts, my hand moves, just polishing things up from the rust off last year. I can get that in practice because each day you practice you can get better.”

Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler who turns 31 in October, has played 78 of 83 games since joining the Vikings five years ago.

Who'll make the cut? Here's a 53-man Vikings roster projection

Training camp is in the books. Half of the preseason has already been played. What better time to unveil the Star Tribune’s first 53-man roster projection for the 2019 Vikings?

Of course, this will miss perfection since no trades or waiver-wire additions are predicted. Where did I go wrong? Let me know in the comments.

Note: A (P) next to a projected released player denotes a player projected to be offered a practice squad spot.

Quarterbacks (3)

Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion and Kyle Sloter

Released: Jake Browning

The question here is would the Vikings dare keep two quarterbacks? History says that’s not likely, so Sloter stays. Each season since Rick Spielman was officially named general manager in 2012, he’s elected to keep at least three quarterbacks under team control for the 53-man roster, this includes 2016 and 2017 when Taylor Heinicke (non-football injury list) and Teddy Bridgewater (PUP) were stored on injury lists by Week 1.

Running backs/fullback (5)

Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, C.J. Ham, Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone

Released: DeAngelo Henderson, Khari Blasingame (P)

If the Vikings don’t keep Mike Boone, he’ll be on another team’s 53-man roster by Week 1. They know this, so it’s likely the Vikings keep five running backs once again. Fullback C.J. Ham is entrenched in multiple roles in the offense, and isn’t going anywhere. A promising camp may land Blasingame on the Vikings’ practice squad.

Receivers (5)

Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe, Brandon Zylstra and Olabisi Johnson

Released: Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Badet (P), Dillon Mitchell (P), Jordan Taylor, Alexander Hollins and Davion Davis

The Vikings seem likely to keep just five receivers in the pivot to an under-center offense with more backs and tight ends, especially when young receivers like Badet and Mitchell may be easy to sneak onto the practice squad. In this projection, the Vikings move on from Treadwell before his fourth NFL season, saving more than $600,000 in cap space with his release.

Tight ends (3)

Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin

PUP: David Morgan

Released: Cole Hikutini (P), Brandon Dillon

The Vikings have not made public a recovery timetable for tight end David Morgan, who “had some stuff done” this offseason, according to assistant head coach Gary Kubiak. Morgan has not even rehabbed off to the side of practice, which is an ominous sign with only three weeks before the regular season opener. His status is the only uncertainty among tight ends. If healthy, he’d make the roster. Should Morgan start the season on PUP, by rule he would have to miss at least six games.

Offensive linemen (9)

Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia.

Released: Oli Udoh (P), Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Cornelius Edison (P), John Keenoy and Nate Wozniak

Injuries have been frustrating for Collins, the promising third-year backup who plays guard and tackle. He’s currently recovering from a leg injury and hasn’t played in the preseason, but Collins may have already done enough to again earn a spot. As has Dozier, the free-agent pickup who has played second-team left tackle in Collins’ absence. The question is does Samia, the fourth-round pick, get the nod over the third-year Isidora?

Defensive linemen (9)

Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, Stephen Weatherly, Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Hercules Mata’afa

Non-football injury list: Tashawn Bower (Achilles)

Released: Armon Watts (P), Stacy Keely, Karter Schult, Tito Odenigbo, Curtis Cothran, Anree Saint-Amour and Ade Aruna

The top seven are fairly solidified from Hunter down to Holmes. Odenigbo, entering his third NFL season, has risen quickly to be the Vikings’ No. 4 defensive end in lieu of a healthy Bower. He also has the flexibility to play defensive tackle. Mata’afa has flashed potential as a pass rusher and could be used situationally, so he stays. Rookie nose tackle project Armon Watts is a prime candidate for the practice squad.

Linebackers (6)

Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers and Cameron Smith

Released: Devante Downs (P), Reshard Cliett, Greer Martini

This is among the toughest positions to sort through. Zimmer recently said the Vikings’ linebacker depth is the best its been entering his sixth season as head coach. The last spot may come down to Smith, the rookie fifth-round pick, Downs and Cliett.

Defensive backs (10)

Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse, Bene Benwikere, Duke Thomas, Derron Smith and Marcus Epps

PUP: Mike Hughes (knee)

Suspended: Holton Hill

Released: Kris Boyd (P), Craig James, Isaiah Wharton, Nate Meadors

The secondary is where the Vikings could look to acquire fresh faces whether via trade or the waiver wire. The current depth, including seventh-round rookie Kris Boyd, hasn’t shown much collectively. Benwikere, signed earlier this month for depth, has dove deep into the slot cornerback position, and could stick if he proves adept. It’s worth wondering if the Vikings even keep 10 defensive backs, or perhaps it’s more likely the ninth or 10th player is on a different team right now.

Specialists (3)

K Dan Bailey, P Kaare Vedvik, LS Austin Cutting

Released: P Matt Wile

The educated — and incomplete — guess here is Vedvik wins the punting job and serves as kicker insurance to Bailey, whether for this season or beyond. Vedvik could handle kickoffs, punts and perhaps the occasional long field goal, while receiver Chad Beebe takes over Wile’s holding duties.

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