Watt Sidelined at Start of Camp by Sore Hamstring

Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s conditioning test and will be smart about when he returns to the field.
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In addition to a sore hamstring keeping Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt from working on the first practice day of training camp Wednesday, two additional players were placed on reserve/COVID-19: Guard Shaq Calhoun and wide receiver Rico Gafford.

Rookie cornerback Lorenzo Burns was placed on the reserve list July 23 and has now missed six days of camp.

League-wide, another 24 players were placed on the COVID list Wednesday, 22 with positive tests. That brings to 54 the number of players that have been placed on the reserve list with 49 because of positive tests. Two players have been activated.

Meanwhile, several other players were not seen at practice Wednesday afternoon, but information was unavailable because head coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke to the media before practice.

Those players were center Rodney Hudson, tackle Kelvin Beachum, running back Jonathan Ward, wide receivers Andy Isabella and Isaac Whitney, linebackers Zeke Turner, Tanner Vallejo and Terrance Smith and cornerback Tay Gowan. The absence of Turner, Vallejo and Smith resulted to only four inside linebackers available in positions drills: Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, Zaven Collins and Evan Weaver.

Watt’s hamstring issue was discovered because he was made available to the media after practice. He was placed on active/physically unable to perform Wednesday.

While Kingsbury did not reveal the injury that landed safety Shawn Williams on active/non-football injury Tuesday, the head coach did say there was no specific timetable for how long Williams will be sidelined, but said it is expected to be a “couple weeks.”

Watt said the sore hamstring occurred during Tuesday’s conditioning test and revealed he won’t practice Thursday. When asked how long it will be before he is on the field, he said, “We’re going to take it very slowly.”

Acknowledging how much he loves being on the field with “the guys,” Watt has learned NFL reality during his 10 seasons,

“In the past I'd fight people on keeping me out,” he said. "But I've learned over time, and I think that's part of the maturity process too, understanding what is the most important thing. Early on, I didn't understand Sept. 12 (the first regular-season game) was the most important thing. I thought every single rep of every single day was, and I was trying to kill people. Sometimes, those are my own teammates. I've got to reel that back sometimes.

“I’ve been in the league 10 years and the biggest thing that I know is it’s all about Week 1. It’s all about being right for Sept. 12 and just making sure that we’re taking the smartest, smooth approach to that date.”

Since the 32-year-old Watt was signed in March, some of the narrative centered around the games he’s missed in recent years although he did play all 16 games in 2020. After his start of camp was delayed, his injury history was quickly the subject on Twitter. Watt said he understands that.

He said, "I'm not going to turn it away. It's always going to be there. People are going to say what they are going to say, they are going to say what they want to say today and that's fine. What matters is Sept. 12 and what we do on game days for the entire season. I'll be judged by that, and that's perfectly fine by me. Because if I go out and perform, then I want you to give me my credit. And if I don't, you can talk your (s---) then too.

"As an athlete you always have a chip on your shoulder. It doesn't matter how well you did, doesn't matter how well you performed, doesn't matter what you do, because you're always going to have a chip on your shoulder and that's what drives you."