According to reports from Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals remain hopeful that star defensive end J.J. Watt will return to practice on Thursday, four days ahead of the team's NFC wild-card game against the Los Angeles Rams. This comes on the heels of the surprising announcement last week that the five-time All-Pro was designated to return from the injured reserve list.
It's still unknown whether Watt will be able to play on Monday night against the Rams, but it appears that whatever happens, it won't be for a lack of trying.
Kliff Kingsbury said J.J. Watt has “basically done everything humanly possibly” in his recovery and training. He’s maxed out there and the next step is to see how he’ll be on the practice field this week.— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) January 12, 2022
Watt was placed on injured reserve in early November after suffering a shoulder injury, and it was widely believed that the former Houston Texans star's ailment would be season-ending. The 32-year-old played 10 years in Houston before signing a two-year contract with the Cardinals in March 2021.
In seven games this season, Watt recorded 16 tackles, 10 quarterback hits, one sack and one forced fumble.
After beginning his career by playing in 80 consecutive regular-season games over five seasons and making four Pro Bowls and First-Team All-Pro four times, 2021 marked the fourth time in the last six years his campaign has been cut short due to injury. Watt was limited to three games in 2016 and five games in 2017, before bouncing back with a full 16-game season in 2018 in which he made his fifth Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro for the fifth time.
Arizona went 7-0 to begin the season with Watt healthy but 4-6 after his injury to finish at 11-6.