PHOENIX — Nobody disliked Linval Joseph, on or off the field, during his time with the Giants — which is another way of saying everyone liked pretty much everything about Joseph.
It has been this way throughout a 13-year NFL career punctuated by durability, dependability and — we saved the best for last — top-level run stopping ability, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever been in the vicinity of this very large defensive tackle.
In just his second season with the Giants, Joseph was part of a ferocious defensive front that pillaged its way to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. More than a decade later, Joseph is back in the big game, a new addition to the Eagles’ fearsome group set to take aim at Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl 2023.
“I’m back,’’ Joseph told The Post. “It took 11 years. It does feel good. The first one happened so fast, I was young, and this one, I’m soaking it all in. I want to be able to enjoy it with my family. It’s a little extra kick.’’
Joseph in his second NFL season did not have two daughters when the Giants made it to Indianapolis and knocked off Tom Brady and the Patriots. Those two daughters will be in attendance at State Farm Stadium for this game.
Without making headlines or any waves, Joseph has fashioned an outstanding career. He hit or exceeded every expectation as a 2010 second-round draft pick, but when he hit free agency in 2014, the Giants did not want to pay him — they figured they could replace him with a younger, cheaper player — and Joseph went to the Vikings on a five-year, $31.5 million deal. The Vikings were so pleased with Joseph’s production that in 2017 they gave him a four-year extension worth $50 million. Three years later, the Vikings let him go, and Joseph received a two-year, $17 million contract from the Chargers.
Joseph was unemployed at the start of the 2022 season, until the Eagles came calling Nov. 16, wanting to strengthen their interior run defense for what they envisioned would be an extended playoff run. The next day, the Eagles imported another veteran run-stuffer, Ndamukong Suh. This is how a contender turns a concern into an afterthought.
“A lot of teams didn’t reach out to me, and that’s another reason why this means so much, because they gave me a true opportunity, and I want to make sure I put it all on the line for them,’’ Joseph said.
With the Giants, Joseph did the dirty work inside while Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul got the headlines and the sacks. With the Eagles, Joseph is part of a record-breaking defensive line that amassed 70 sacks during the season.
“You just have so many all-stars in one room, you’re a young guy, you’re thinking, ‘How could this be even possible?’ ’’ Joseph said earlier this season of his time with the Giants. “And here we go 10, 12 years later, we’re in the same situation, the same way. You look around and you’re just like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ ’’
Joseph, 34, became an immediate starter with the Eagles. In the NFC Championship game, he recovered a fumble caused by Haason Reddick when he knocked 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy out with an elbow injury in the first quarter.
“He’s been a great presence for us,’’ Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “His effort every single day, he’s the same guy every single day. It’s a really good unit, a mix of young and old and guys who feed off each other really well.’’