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JJ Watt on facing his former team: 'It's not the same team'

The Cardinals defensive end spoke about playing his former team, the Houston Texans, Thursday, saying the game has more weight to it, but not what people will think

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals fans have had this Sunday circled on their calendars since the NFL released the 2021-22 schedule in May for one simple reason: it will be the first time JJ Watt and DeAndre Hopkins will play the team that drafted them: the Houston Texans.  

However, even though Watt admitted this game does mean a little more, it is still another game. 

"You look at the roster and you look at the guys that 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. "So it’s not like I’m like ‘Oh, I wanna 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. So, I think that once the game kicks off and once everything goes, it is just another game. I’m looking forward to playing it and it’s going to be fun."  

Watt also spoke about the decade he spent in a Houston Texans uniform and leaving the city, after asking to be released after last season. 

"I think you obviously have to look at every situation in its own vacuum because they are all so different. And you have to look at what transpired and how things came about but yeah, I mean, there’s memories, there’s history, there’s so much," Watt said. "There’s relationships, there’s everything that was built there and there’s such a massive amount of love and respect for the city for the fans for everybody that was involved with making the memories that happened there. But at the same time, sometimes things happen and a new opportunity has to arise. And I’m very thankful and happy for where I am right now." 

Sunday's game features two franchises heading in opposite directions. The Cardinals are the hottest team in the NFL at 6-0 and are coming off a win over Cleveland after fighting through a lot of adversity, as head coach Kliff Kingsbury, DE Chandler Jones, DE Zach Allen and DT Corey Peters all missed the game due to positive COVID-19 tests. 

The Texans, meanwhile, are 1-5, with their only win coming in week 1 over the Jacksonville Jaguars. For Watt, it's tough seeing the Texans struggle because he believes the fans deserve a winning team. 

"I was there for the best moments the organization’s ever had. Winning our first playoff game, winning the division for the first time, doing things that that place had never done before and I know how unbelievable the fan base is," Watt said. "So that’s why it hurts me to see where it is now because I believe those fans deserve to be living those high times, to be experiencing those great moments. 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 that they get to do that because I know firsthand, it’s an unbelievable place to play when you’re rolling."  

But now, Watt is getting to experience what it is like to play for a team that is rolling right here in the Valley. And even though he will be on the opposite sideline from the Texans for the first time, he will remember he's wearing Cardinal red. 

"When I turned on the film this week and I watched the games and you’re looking at NRG Stadium, for 10 years, I’ve looked at that film and I’ve been watching the team in blue and white," Watt said. "And now I’m watching it from the other perspective and I’m studying those guys. So it’s definitely different, but I don’t think I’m going to forget which guy I’m supposed to tackle if that’s what you’re asking." 

But when asked about what he has loved about being a Cardinal so far during his time in Arizona, Watt said it is the team's culture and business-like attitude. 

"I signed here because I saw great potential in the team as it was," Watt said. "And then after I signed you continue to add guys like AJ Green, like Rodney Hudson, now the owner’s making moves for guys like Zach Ertz. This organization, the GM, the owner, have shown that they are willing to do the things necessary to go out there and compete for a championship. And that’s why I’m here."  

Watt is also here because he is chasing the one thing he has yet to accomplish in the NFL, a Super Bowl championship. 

"It’s the only thing driving me now," Watt said. "I’m fortunate. I’ve made a lot of money in this league, fortunately, I’ve won individual awards in this league, I’ve accomplished things in this league, there is one thing that I haven’t accomplished that I want to accomplish. And it’s the only thing that matters."

The Cardinals will host the Texans at State Farm Stadium this Sunday, October 24th. The kickoff is set for 1:25.  

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