Cardinals’ decision on J.J. Watt to go ‘down to the wire’

Jan 15, 2022, 1:30 PM | Updated: 1:47 pm
J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the third quarter against the Cleveland Brow...
J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt made it through his first practice week since October ahead of his team’s Wild Card round playoff game on Monday.

Watt underwent shoulder surgery on Nov. 3 after suffering multiple injuries in Week 7. He was designated to return from injured reserve last week and still needs to be activated in order to play.

The Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury made it clear on Saturday that Watt’s availability will be determined on game day.

“We’ve just got to get to Monday and see what his comfort level is and what he feels like and what we think he can do for us,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll take it down to the wire with him. He’s done everything humanly possible to put himself in this position. And I know if he has it his way he’ll be out there. We’ve got to be smart.”

Kingsbury said Watt was very limited in his first day back on Thursday, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said the veteran did similar activities on Friday.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that Watt had not setbacks and is traveling with the team to Los Angeles.

Watt signed with the Cardinals last offseason after winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards in 10 years with the Houston Texans. His impact was obvious for Arizona, as the team went 7-0 with him on the field.

He had 10 quarterback hits in seven games, and Arizona pass rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden saw greater production when lining up alongside him.

Watt said to reporters this week that he was told his recovery would take four-to-six months. He is trying to comeback in approximately three.

Throughout the latter half of the season, Watt was running on the side during practice and before several games. He eventually was able to test his shoulder against offensive linemen one-on-one before returning to practice.

“You just go to work and you have no clue if it’s gonna actually work or not,” Watt said. “You have no clue if you’re gonna make it happen or not, but you just go to work. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But, I knew that at that moment, you’re going to do everything you possibly can because those guys in there would do everything they possibly could for me.”

Watt also said, however, that he will not step on the field if it will be detrimental to his team.

He returned to practice to see where he was at physically before potentially jumping into the fire of an intense playoff game.

“If you practice like it’s a game, then you don’t have to worry about wondering what the game is gonna be like,” Watt said. “If it if it feels good at practice, it’ll feel good in a game.”

Joseph told reporters not to be surprised if Watt suits up against the Rams, and Rapoport reported that Watt is expected to be active.

The Cardinals defense struggled to get pressure up front in a Week 14 loss to Los Angeles, so Watt’s potential involvement could provide a major boost, even if he only plays a handful of snaps.

Kickoff is set for 6:15 p.m. You can tune in on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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