One of the narratives following the stunning signing of defensive end J.J. Watt by the Cardinals Monday was the notion that Watt can’t be expected to play a lot of snaps or be a “full-time” player anymore.
The obvious comeback to that is: Why not?
It’s true that Watt has played only 48 of a possible 80 games during the last five regular seasons. Because of injuries, he played three games in 2016, five in 2017 and eight in 2019.
However, he played all 16 games in 2018 and this past season, and in both years played at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps.
In fact, since his second season in 2012 when Watt played 88 percent of the snaps, he has never been below 90 percent except for those injury-affected seasons. The NFL began charting snap-counts that year, so there are no figures available for 2011 when he started all 16 games.
The count: 94 percent in 2013, 93 in 2014, 96 in 2015, 90 in 2018 and 91 in 2020.
This past season was the third time in his career Watt played at least 1,000 snaps with 1,013. In 2014, he played 1,049 and `1,004 in 2015. Three other times he was in the 900s: 937 during his rookie season, 960 in 2013 and 963 in 2018.
So, why would anyone presume he wouldn’t be at those levels again in 2021? Watt, who turns 32 on March 22, surely didn’t decide to come to Arizona to be a part-time player. That’s not in his DNA.
What is, is the passion and motivation to play through injuries and being torn up mentally when serious injuries keep him off the field.
Heck, in 2012, Watt played all 16 games with torn ligaments in his elbow and had two back surgeries in 2016.
To get a measure of the man, it’s a must to read his rant after the Texans lost to Cincinnati in Week 16, dropping their record to 4-11. His gripping 350-word response to a question was filled with him pounding his hands together and one deep breath.
To the question “will you all be able to kind of regroup and hope to finish the season on a positive note next week?,” Watt answered, “We're professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money. If you can't come in and put work in in the building, go out to the practice field and work hard and do your lifts and do what you're supposed to do, you should not be here. This is a job. We are getting paid a whole lot of money. There are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of s--- and they care about it.
"They care every single week. We're in Week 16 and we're 4-11 and there's fans that watched this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can't go out there and you can't work out, you can't show up on time, you can't practice, you can't want to go out there and win, you shouldn't be here, because this is a privilege.
“It's the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. And if you can't care enough, even in Week 17, even when you're trash, even when you're 4-11, if you can't care enough to go out there, give everything you've got and try your hardest, that's bull----. So that's how. I think it's -- there are people every week that still tweet you, that still come up to you and say, hey, we're still rooting for you, we're still behind you. They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care, and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That's why. Those people aren't getting paid. We're getting paid handsomely. That's why.
"And that's -- that's who I feel the most bad for is our fans and the people who care so deeply and the city and the people who love it and who truly want it to be great. And it's not. And that sucks as a player, to know that we're not giving them what they deserve.”
Beyond what he does on the field, that’s the essence of what the Arizona Cardinals have added to their locker room.