CARDINALS CORNER

Cardinals DE J.J. Watt’s last practice among final chapters in NFL career

Jan 6, 2023, 6:48 PM
Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt took one step closer to retirement on Friday.

After 12 seasons, Watt logged the final practice of his NFL career.

In true Watt fashion, the lineman made sure his last was better than his first, while leaving one last mark on his teammates.

Given how athletes practice more than play in games, they can be easy to forget On Friday, that was anything but the case.

“Walking out to the last practice today was definitely one where you don’t really think about it at all until you’re walking out there and you’re like, ‘I’m not going to walk out this door with this helmet in my hand ever again,'” Watt said Friday in his final press conference at the training facility.

“I was talking to some of the guys, because it’s not walking out to the field that I’m going to miss,” he added. “It’s not the actual act of practice. … It’s the hanging with the guys. It’s the stories, it’s the laughs. It’s the little moments that you’re going to miss. It’s not that, and obviously the game so that’s why the game will be emotional, but I told them after practice everybody’s day comes at some point. Nobody gets to play it forever, so it’s just my day.”

The last bit of work in a practice setting nearly closes the last week of preparation Watt will have as an NFL pro.

And when the team’s Week 18 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers rolls around Sunday afternoon, he’ll check another box by playing in Levi’s Stadium for the first time. Before Week 17, that and the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium had been the only two Watt hadn’t played in.

Eleven seasons ago, Watt crossed the first location off that list at Houston’s Reliant Stadium alongside then-Texans defensive backs coach and current Cardinals coordinator Vance Joseph.

Seeing Watt’s career start and end hasn’t been lost on the coach.

“It’s been emotional for all of us,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “J.J.’s had an emotional week. … But for me, it’s been fun to watch both sides. … He’s a hard-working guy who has earned his way. It wasn’t given to him from Day 1. And to watch him become a first-ballot Hall of Famer has been fun for me.”

MegaWatt? More like MegaNot

For those wondering if Watt will get one last shot at seeing his number called within the offense, Kingsbury is either bluffing hard or we’ve already seen the last of the lineman on the other side of the football.

“I think that’s retired,” the head coach said Friday. “We showed some clips of his catches and stuff. I think some of the young players didn’t know that he did all that stuff — catching fades and all that. We gave him his props.”

Arizona Cardinals TE Trey McBride warms up ahead of practice on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury smiles during practice on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury smiles during practice on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB David Blough (left) and WR Hollywood Brown (right) smile during practice on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR A.J. Green runs through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Javon Wims runs through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR A.J. Green runs through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR A.J. Green and the rest of the team's wideouts run through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt looks on during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt runs through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Pharoh Cooper runs through drills during practice on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

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