J.J. Watt era officially arrives to Arizona Cardinals OTAs
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals made a number of offseason moves that had those across the NFL landscape talking in 2021.
But none got more attention than J.J. Watt’s arrival to the Valley.
On Wednesday, the world got its first glimpse of J.J. Watt donning the Cardinal red on the practice field during the team’s first voluntary OTA session.
It’s clear he’s already getting settled in to his digs.
“He’s been great. Everything you’ve seen and I’ve seen through the media and different outlets throughout his career, what you see is what you get,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “He’s locked in all the time, he’s a team guy. Incredible work ethic, incredible leadership and it’s been a real joy to see him around the building.”
Despite heading into his 11th NFL season, Watt was more than involved during the voluntary workout, even offering up his services as a pass catcher against cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.
It’s moments like Wednesday’s that help create a greater bond with his new teammates.
“Definitely rubs off. It’s cool that we have such good vets on this team,” running back Chase Edmonds said. “I remember being a young guy, when you see these certain star players, you do get starry eyed and some of them do.
“It’s good when they come in kinda a little bit more relaxed, a little bit kinda cool guy where it’s like, ‘Man, he’s just like one of the guys. He’s not some superstar guy that too good to talk to someone or not acknowledge someone.’ We got a great veteran presence on this team and it does wonders for us.”
Despite being a veteran many look up to, Watt is stuck taking notes early on in his Cardinals career, being this is his first offseason with the organization after a decade in Houston.
His taking the quick jaunt down rookie memory lane in stride, even he’s not quite sure where to park yet.
“Being at the same place for 10 years, you kinda have your routine set, you know how things go and you kinda have a way of doing things,” Watt said. “So for me here the last couple days has definitely been a little bit of, I’m following Zach Allen around saying, ‘Alright, where do we go next? And how the hell do I get to the meeting room?’
“This morning I actually, driving in to turn into the parking lot, you can turn into our parking lot and then you turn into the next one and it’s like soccer fields. I turned into the soccer fields today.”
While Watt is in attendance, not all of Arizona’s vets were present for the team’s voluntary workout Wednesday, including wide receiver A.J. Green, center Rodney Hudson and linebacker Chandler Jones.
Watt feels it necessary being in a new environment to dive in head-first, from getting to know little things about his teammates’ families to figuring out what makes the tick.
“For me personally, with a new defense and with a new system and with a new everything, I don’t want … to drive into the soccer fields on my first day of training camp. I’d rather do it in June than in August,” Watt said.
“I’m trying to get those kinks out. I want to get with the guys, I want to build those relationships and start to build that comradery and chemistry because I know I’m new here. … You gotta have those relationships so you know how to have those conversations [in important moments during the season] and get the best out of each other.”
J.J. Watt already taking in the Arizona sports scene
Watt may be one of the newest members of the Cardinals, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting his feet wet with the rest of the state’s teams.
The defensive end met with the media in a Phoenix Mercury shirt after taking in Game 5 between the Suns and Los Angeles Lakers a night prior.
“I’m obviously a big believer of kinda diving all in,” Watt said. “We’re all in this thing together. … I’m very excited to be here and be a Cardinal and part of Arizona and try and build something special. … I’m going to go to the Suns games, I’m going to be on board with the Suns. The Mercury, I’m excited about them and I’m excited just to be here and to be in the community.
“I’m going to be watching the Diamondbacks, the Coyotes, all of that. I’m excited to follow along with that because, like I said, we’re one city, we’re one state and we’re all pushing towards the same thing. I figure if I want the fans to be on my side, I better be on their side so I’m happy to be here and excited to get out into the community and get to work.”
Even before Watt donned his Cardinals shirt this offseason, signaling his signing with the organization, the defensive end was in the process of adding some Arizona flair to his shoe line for a good cause.
Last week, Watt revealed a new colorway for his Reebok sneakers honoring the late Pat Tillman. Every year with every new edition of Watt’s shoes, he dedicates a new colorway to some form of the military, with all of the proceeds going back to a related foundation.
The Tillman-inspired shoe had been in the works for over a year, well before Watt’s decision to join the Cardinals.
“A full year ago I decided that we were gonna honor Pat Tillman with this one if we could get the blessing of Marie Tillman and the Tillman Foundation. … They were awesome to work with,” Watt said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with them over the past year … making sure we built this shoe in a way that would properly honor Pat.
“I thought it turned out great … It was the fastest one of my shoes that ever sold out. I think 80% of inventory was gone within the first 45 minutes. It was an incredible response and I think a great way for everybody to show their appreciation. I’m very thankful to Marie and the entire foundation.”