Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury Offers Optimism for Potential J.J. Watt Return

Getty Images J.J. Watt and Kliff Kingsbury on the sidelines in 2021.

Now, we still have plenty of time to speculate, but the incoming news coming out of Arizona Cardinals‘ practice is music to the ears for the “Red Sea” fanbase.

According to Cardinals reporter Darren Urban, both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins participated in practice on December 1.

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It’s worth mentioning that Murray practiced with a limited designation before being ruled inactive against the Seahawks. As for Hopkins, this is his first practice in more than a month after hurting his hamstring against the Packers.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury talked about the star players.

“We want to make sure they feel good and kind of ease them back into the week,” said Kingsbury. “Tomorrow they’ll have pads on. Hopefully, they can do a little bit more.”

Before their matchup against the Seahawks, Kingsbury expected Murray and Hopkins back after their bye.

The Cardinals have the league’s best record at 9-2. To win two out of three games without your best two players is an achievement on its own.

There was one surprising player participating on the side of practice on the first day of December that speaks volumes.

Surprise Sighting at Practice

For the first time since his shoulder injury, J.J. Watt was spotted doing individual work on the sidelines at practice.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on October 27, J.J. Watt “will undergo what is now likely to be season-ending shoulder surgery.

Watt would eventually be placed on IR on November 6. Despite the season-ending concern for Watt, the Cardinals “remained hopeful that the defensive end could return this season after undergoing surgery on his shoulder,” according to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

Keim didn’t rule out the 32-year-old’s return on November 19.

“You’re talking about a guy that’s just different than anybody else,” said Keim. “I’ve seen him on the field this week — not practicing, but moving around — and I’ve seen him in the weight room and just the other night I was coming out of the office late and he was in the hot tub. He was here after hours. The guy is a relentless worker, he’s a relentless player, he’s passionate about the game and again, I would not bet against him.”

Watt Receives Optimism

Watt’s shoulder injury was thought to be much different than his torn pectoral injury with the Texans in 2019. He underwent successful surgery to repair his torn left pectoral muscle and missed just 8 games.

Ex-NFL football head team doctor David Chao had skepticism in October on Watt returning in the playoffs.

Different surgery than he had a couple of years ago with his torn pec tendon where he came back and really set a record and played a little bit in the playoffs. This time, with late October surgery, I don’t really see how he can beat the odds of returning to play even if the Cardinals go to the playoffs or go to the Super Bowl.

On December 1, Kingsbury touched on Watt’s possible return.

“You can never count him out,” said Kingsbury. “He’s a machine. He’s been working like crazy. I’m never up here when he’s not up here and doing some sort of rehab.”

Watt signed a two-year deal with Arizona in March and was a huge part of the Cardinals’ success, compiling a team-high 28 QB pressures and 11 QB hits before his injury according to PFF.

The Cardinals’ defense has been up-and-down since Watt went down, but mainly giving up yards to running backs. Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey gashed the Cards for over 250 scrimmage yards combined.

While it seems highly unlikely Watt plays in the regular season, getting the All-Po back for a potential Super Bowl playoff run would be electric.

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