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Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt set to return to practice after shoulder surgery

Here's how the return of the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will impact Arizona’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals defensive end JJ Watt warms up during NFL football practice, Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals Defensive Lineman J.J. Watt is set to return to practice on Thursday, just 10 weeks after undergoing what was expected to be season-ending shoulder surgery.

“I mean basically what happened was the shoulder dislocated out the back, took everything with it on the way out. Rotator cuff, labrum, capsule, infraspinatus, all that, everything… Gone. I also dislocated my bicep tendon in the process,” Watt explained to local media on Wednesday. “I got surgery on November 3, and we just went to work on rehab. Just doing whatever I was allowed to do, pushing whatever we were allowed to push and just trying to do whatever we could every single day. From treatment to workouts to little movements to nutrition and sleep and whatever possible to get back as fast as I possibly could.”

Watt injured his shoulder during the Cardinals’ Week 7 win over his former team, the Houston Texans. 

When the Cardinals hosted the Los Angeles Rams for Monday Night Football in Week 14, our 12 Sports cameras caught Watt pregame sweating through drills and using the goalpost as a punching bag. 

It was evident Watt wasn’t accepting the three-month recovery timeline.

“I mean I went down; we were 7-0 and I’m sitting there thinking, you know, this team really, really is special,” Watt said. “It was devastating to go down at that time and all I wanted to do was to get back to try and do whatever I could to help this team. So, I’m thankful to everybody who helped me along the way and I’m hopeful and looking forward to the opportunity to come back.”

The Cardinals designated Watt to return from injured reserve on Friday, Jan. 7. That means Watt could begin practicing and the team can activate him to the 53-man roster at any time within the next 21 days or at the conclusion of the three-week period.

“I’m obviously excited to get back on the practice field tomorrow it’s been a lot of work a time put in by a lot of people that I’m very thankful for and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and to seeing how it goes to doing whatever I can to help this team get to our end goal.”

The end goal is to make it to Super Bowl LVI at So-Fi Stadium, the very place where the Cardinals’ playoff run begins. 

The Cardinals will face the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Jan. 17 to cap off Super Wild Card Weekend. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no confirmation as to whether or not Watt will play on Monday in Los Angeles.

“I won’t speak to Monday,” Watt said. “Personally, I’m excited to get on the practice field and see how it feels. I’ve been doing stuff on my own, been doing stuff with offensive lineman, you know, on the side but haven’t been in the actual football and practice setting yet. So, I’m looking forward to that, looking forward to getting back out there with the guys and we’ll make that decision as Monday comes closer.”

After starting the season hot, the Cardinals ended the season shaky, becoming the first team in NFL history to start a season 7-0 and lose six games. 

But Watt and his teammates know the history they have in front of them as they look to bring Arizona its first Super Bowl championship. The return of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is expected to give the Cardinals a major boost as they head into the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“I mean, obviously, we didn't accomplish some of the goals we wanted to accomplish here at the back end of the season. I don't think that there's anybody denying that. But the beauty of it is that once you're in the tournament, you're in the tournament. And nothing that happened before matters now. Now, it's a matter of going out there and performing well,” Watt said. “I don't think that anybody in this position should have any reason whatsoever to not get hyped up, to not get ready, to not be focused, to not be doing everything you can possibly do. I mean, it's the NFL playoffs. This is what it's all about and this is your opportunity to go out there and do something great and to be remembered forever. So, if anybody needs any extra motivation, I think you're in the wrong locker room.”

Follow the conversation with Lina Washington on Twitter: @LWashingtonTV. If you have a sports story idea, e-mail Lina at LWashington@12News.com.

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