ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals’ J.J. Watt feels for Texans fans, ready to face former team

Oct 22, 2021, 5:03 PM

Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt checks his face after running through a drill during practice Wednes...

Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt checks his face after running through a drill during practice Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — When the Arizona Cardinals line up against the Houston Texans on Sunday, defensive end J.J. Watt and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will square off against the team they called home for 10 and seven years, respectively.

But when the Texans travel to the desert in Week 7, it’s full steam ahead on one thing; moving to 7-0.

The colors are familiar, but it’s a significantly different team than when Watt left. And rest assured, the defensive lineman won’t forget which guy he’s supposed to tackle.

“There’s obviously something more to it. I don’t think that it’s what people may think it is, because you look at the roster and you look at the guys who are there, it’s been so massively turned over that there’s only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with,” Watt said Friday.

“It’s not like, ‘I want to go and beat my old team’ or ‘I can’t wait to face this guy’ because it’s not the same team. It’s not the same organization that I remember and that I was a part of. I think that once the game kicks off and once everything goes, it is just another game and I’m looking forward to playing it.”

That’s not to say Watt doesn’t still massive love for the city and its fans.

There’s no doubt Watt carries a lot of memories with him from his days in Houston. It’s where he met his wife, Chicago Red Stars forward Kealia Watt, and spent the first five years of their relationship. He was a part of the organization’s first playoff win as well as its first divisional title in 2011.

So even though team’s descent into the bottom of the NFL standings is no concern to Watt as a player anymore, it pains him to see what Houston fans are living through.

“I believe those fans deserve to be living those high times and to be experiencing those great moments,” Watt said when talking about the team’s successes when he was there.

“It hurts to know that they’re not and to know that they’re struggling. I hope that they get back there at some point and I hope they get to do that because I know firsthand it’s an unbelievable place to play when you’re rolling.”

As far as what those outside the Texans connection are seeing, Watt and Hopkins, the latter of which did not speak to the media this week, are treating the meeting like it’s just the next game on the schedule.

“Maybe, I haven’t felt like that,” quarterback Kyler Murray said when asked if the wideout was carrying anything extra into the meeting. “Talking to him, he hasn’t said anything about it, but obviously it’s his former team and he spent a lot of years there. So, it might mean a little bit more to him.”

EXTRA POINTS

– Watt on Hopkins’ recruitment to Arizona:

“He started how he always starts with the social media posts like he does. And then we were just talking. We talked all the time before that, too. Hop and I are obviously — we go back, we’ve had a relationship for many years. We’ve been talking ever since he came here, talked after I was released and now I’m very happy to be back on the same side as him and being able to witness the things that he does on a weekly basis.”

– Watt on what he did with his Texans gear:

“I have a lot of it, there’s no doubt. That’s 10 years of my life and there’s 10 years of relationships so it’s not like I chucked all my Houston stuff. Over 10 years, I’ve gathered thousands of pieces of clothing so I think half of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, is dressed in team-issued Houston Texans gear, so everybody’s got a little bit of it. Now, we’re transitioning to Cardinals red for this year.”

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