'I love to stop the run': Michael Pierce aiming to be next great Vikings defensive tackle

Michael Pierce #97 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts to a play during the second half of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. ((Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images))

A self-proclaimed power lifter who considers himself one of the strongest players in the NFL, Michael Pierce is coming to the Minnesota Vikings looking to fill the void left by Linval Joseph’s departure.

Drafted by the New York Giants in 2010, Joseph signed with the Vikings in free agency in 2014. He was cut last week, and reportedly agreed Wednesday to a two-year contract with the L.A. Chargers. Pierce is the newest run-stopping nose tackle coming to the Vikings, and the biggest at 340 pounds.

So why did he choose the Vikings after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens? The chance to join a defense filled with Pro Bowlers, and a connection with current assistant defensive line coach Imarjaye Albury. That, and conversations with Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson.

Of course, due to Coronavirus concerns across the globe, those conversations took place over the phone.

“Everything just worked out perfectly for me as far as what I wanted to hear, what they expected from me,” Pierce said via conference call. “I’ve just known the sheer amount of people y’all had that play the game at a high level and been on the top 100, so it’s a pleasure. I look forward to getting to meet these guys and getting to work with these guys. Making some things happen on the field.”

Some of the names he threw out will be his future teammates. Others have left the team in the last week. They include Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith.

Confined to his Mobile, Ala., home due to Covid-19, Pierce spoke Friday about what it meant to get a contract from the Vikings on what’s reported to be valued at three years and $27 million.

“It definitely feels amazing just to be valued at that dollar amount or just valued by an organization and having somebody respect my game enough to give me the keys to such a prestigious organization that has a deep history in defensive line play,” Pierce said.

Pierce made 30 starts in 60 games over four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted in 2016. He made one start his rookie year, 13 the following season and 14 last year. He’s got 3.5 sacks over four seasons, 151 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss.

Last year, he had a half sack, 35 tackles and three quarterback hits in 14 starts. Most importantly, he was a key cog in clogging up the middle for the No. 5 rushing defense in the NFL. The Ravens allowed 93.4 yards rushing per game on defense on the way to going 14-2 in the AFC North. They allowed 100 yards rushing or more in a game eight times.

The Vikings were 13th in the NFL in rushing defense last year, allowing 108 yards per game.

“I love to stop the run, that’s my calling card, it’s something I enjoy doing each and every day,” Pierce said.

Like most NFL players, Pierce is in a holding pattern right now because of Coronavirus. He can’t go to a gym to stay in shape, so he relies on prescribed home workouts from his workout facility in Pensacola, Fla., EXOS. He tries to maintain a consistent nutrition plan through meal prep planning company that provides him his food.

He’ll be ready if and when players are allowed back to team facilities to do offseason conditioning.

“It’s 80 percent of what you put in your body.  I’m doing as much running and bodyweight stuff we can do until I can get back in the gym. It’ll serve me well until it’s time to go,” Pierce said.

Outside of football, Pierce has a passion for powerlifting. If he wasn’t playing in the NFL, he says he’d be competing for a spot in the Olympic games with U.S.A. Weightlifting. He’s also a big fan of the World’s Strongest Man competition.

His hope is to bring that strength and be a dominant force on the Vikings’ defensive line.

“I would say I believe I’m at least in the top 10 strongest guys in the NFL,” Pierce said.

His road hasn’t been easy and it’s had ups and downs, but now Pierce is getting his chance to be the next significant defensive tackle for the Vikings. That road gets tougher and a little more complicated, with Coronavirus keeping him from traveling and meeting his new teammates for the foreseeable future.

“I just want to wish everybody to stay safe, practice social distancing when possible and let’s try to beat this thing. I’m ready to go,” Pierce said.