When Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph went down because of a foot injury following the Vikings’ 20-10 win over Atlanta on Nov. 29, the team sat at 8-3 and was in first place in the NFC North.

Since that game, the Vikings have lost to two of the best teams in the NFC, Seattle and Arizona, before rebounding last week against Chicago. The Vikings hope Joseph’s return to the field on Sunday against the Giants — the team he played with for his first four NFL seasons — will give them a big boost defensively.

Against the Seahawks, the Vikings gave up 433 yards of offense, the highest total of any opponent this year, and against the Cardinals they gave up 393 yards. The defense played much better against the Bears, giving up only 293 yards, and Joseph is excited to get out with the defense playing better.

“I’m just glad to be back, I really am,” he said. “I missed three weeks, and I’m just glad to be back on the field with my guys.”

The 6-4, 329-pound Joseph said he doesn’t even know exactly how he got hurt but said that’s part of playing in the NFL.

“Those types of things just happen,” he said. “I feel like I was on the field, fell down, I tried to get up to walk and couldn’t walk.”

In terms of how he feels now, Joseph said he was able to maintain workouts so he thinks he can get right back into playing condition.

“Actually it has felt pretty good [this week],” Joseph said. “It felt pretty good. I feel like I really haven’t lost a beat. My conditioning, I’ve been training and doing everything to stay where I’m at now, and I’m just glad to be back.”

No extra pressure

Joseph played in 47 of 48 games during his last three seasons with New York, recording nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss over those seasons. He signed with the Vikings in 2014 for $31.5 million over five seasons, a contract that seems like a steal.

When asked if there’s any extra motivation playing his old team, Joseph said it makes no difference.

“I’m just looking forward to being back on the field. I’ve been out for three weeks, and I’m glad to be back,” he said. “Right now the Giants is the next game and we need a win to go to the promised land and right now we need to take care of business.

“I mean, playing against the Giants is playing against the Giants. I have a couple guys still on the team, but right now they’re a new team. It’s been two years. They changed coordinators, they changed a lot of players, this is a brand-new team to me. I can’t even tell my team what the Giants do anymore [offensively] because they really changed everything.”

Still, Joseph did have a lot of praise for two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who enters Week 16 having thrown for the sixth-most yards in the NFL this year at 3,900. His 32 touchdown passes were tied for third in the league.

“Eli Manning is a very good quarterback, an elite quarterback,” Joseph said. “He won a lot of games when I was there with the Giants, and right now I feel like he’s playing very good football. I feel like he’s going to be tough to go against Sunday.”

It’s obviously a huge break for the Vikings that Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has the third-most receiving yards in the NFL this year with 1,396 and is tied for the league lead with 13 touchdowns, will not be playing because of a one-game suspension for his antics against Carolina and cornerback Josh Norman on Sunday.

Joseph was asked if it surprised him to see Beckham suspended.

“I’m not surprised he got in trouble for what he did, not surprised at all,” Joseph said. “But at the end of the day the NFL is not about that type of character or that type of play that was going on, for either guy. I’m glad that’s been addressed, and maybe that this will be an example and this won’t happen ever again in the NFL.”

Giants let him walk

The economics of the NFL salary cap mean teams can’t keep every player they want to. So the Giants let Joseph leave as a free agent despite four productive seasons from their 2010 second-round draft pick out of East Carolina.

“At the end of the day when a team has to fix their holes or has other problems they have to address, they’re going to address those problems,” Joseph said.

What has he found to be different between playing in New York and the Twin Cities?

“The difference? New York is the Big Apple and Minnesota is the small apple,” Joseph said. “There’s a lot of differences when it comes to off-the-field stuff, but playing football is still the same.

“You have Tom Coughlin, you have Eli Manning, you have all the [other] stuff going on as distractions in New York, and in Minnesota you really don’t, that’s the difference.”

Jottings

• Friday being Christmas, it will be a difficult day for those mourning the recent death of Flip Saunders, Timberwolves president and coach. It’s a tough and sad day for the Saunders family and the many good friends who respected and loved this great man. He was a close friend of mine for 43 years and I, along with so many others, can’t believe he isn’t still around.

• The word is that former Gophers football assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover turned down the head coaching job at Southern Illinois, the FCS program that he served at as an assistant under Jerry Kill for seven years.

• Gophers coach Tracy Claeys on what he saw out of former East Ridge standout quarterback Seth Green, who signed his letter of intent to play for the Maroon and Gold last week: “We were familiar with Seth, him being here in the state of Minnesota until last year. His dad took a job promotion down there in Texas. At Allen High School, where he played, those kids through the junior high and everything do the same system, and I thought he did remarkably well there for going in and only having one year to learn what they’re doing, and all those other kids had been in that system for six years. We do feel like he’s extremely talented and will have the skills to make us a better football team.”

• The Timberwolves got blown out at home Wednesday night by the Spurs, who despite the Warriors’ 27-1 record might be the best team in the NBA. But it has been a good first third or so of the season for the young Wolves. Consider that last year, the Wolves didn’t record their 11th victory until Feb. 8. This year they stand at 11-18, while through 29 games last season they were at 5-24 and in the middle of an eventual 15-game losing streak. Yes, with good performances from players such as Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng, the future is bright for the Wolves.