Kingsbury: Cardinals’ J.J. Watt’s rehab from shoulder injury ‘awe-inspiring’

Jan 7, 2022, 1:24 PM | Updated: 3:12 pm
JJ Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares for a game against the Minnesota Vikings at State Far...
JJ Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares for a game against the Minnesota Vikings at State Farm Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals and those who are following them are currently living at the peak of the J.J. Watt experience.

The stories of his no-quit grit from his Houston Texans days are not longer just tales told after the defensive end was designated to return from the injured reserve on Friday.

“I look at how fast he’s healed, how hard he has worked,” general manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “In the time that I’ve been doing this it’s like, you look at your roster, and there’s 52 players, then there’s JJ Watt.

“He is different. And he is different in every way. I’m telling you, he does things that I’ve never seen a player do before. And again, I have a lot of respect and admiration for him.”

Moments like these highlight the importance of Watt’s presence both on and off the field in Arizona.

He may not be activated just yet, but the fact the team opened up the practice window for a potential return is a massive boost for the Cardinals, whether he suits up or not.

“It’s procedural. He’s done all he can do in the training room and weight room and then some, so we’ll get him back out there and working him through some things, but he’s attacked that rehab, just like you assumed he would,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Friday.

“Nobody’s ever seen anybody go at it quite like he has over the last couple months. So it’s been awe-inspiring to watch him every day. And it’s always good to have him back on the field.”

Simply put, the only thing left for the Cardinals to do in Watt’s progression was to get him back on the grass with his teammates.

For players like starting center Rodney Hudson and safety Jalen Thompson, just seeing Watt attack his rehab and stick around the team facility speaks volumes to his character and overall drive to succeed in the desert.

“Having J.J. back is huge,” Thompson said. “He’s a leader for us and just having a guy like that on the defensive line getting pressure on the QB, it’s always a big help.”

As for how Watt’s feeling, his Twitter post after news broke is all you need to know about how he’s feeling.

Any form of Watt on the playing field is a plus, especially for an Arizona team that has upped its game in terms of its run defense in recent weeks.

NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund took a closer look at the team’s success as of late:

Arizona’s defense has allowed positive rushing yards over expected on just 17 percent of rushes since Week 16 (the lowest rate in the NFL), after allowing positive RYOE on 38.1 percent of rushes in Weeks 1-15 (fourth-highest).

On rushes inside the tackles since Week 16, the Cardinals have allowed the second-lowest yards per rush (2.4) and the seventh-lowest percentage of runs of 10-plus yards (4%) — a huge improvement from earlier in the season (Weeks 1-15: 4.6 and 14.1%).

Watt may not be the only injured Cardinals defensive lineman looking to potentially make a return before the season is all said and done, either.

Defensive lineman Jordan Phillips won’t make Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, but Kingsbury sounded optimistic on Friday when asked if he anticipated him back at some point.

“Yes on Jordan,” the head coach said. “Maybe next week, maybe the week after if we’re still in it.”

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Kingsbury: Cardinals’ J.J. Watt’s rehab from shoulder injury ‘awe-inspiring’