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Kingsbury: Watt Won't Play vs. Seahawks. But Could There Be a Sunday Surprise?

Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt has been out since Oct. 24, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he won’t play against Seattle. Could there be a Sunday surprise?

Calm down, Red Sea. 

Even with defensive end J.J. Watt being designated for return from reserve/injured Friday, there doesn’t appear to be any chance he will be on the playing field for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Seattle Seahawks.

Watt was not present on the practice field Friday during the portion open to the media. Afterward, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Watt won’t play this weekend.

However, how uplifting might it be for Watt to be in uniform and introduced with the starters at State Farm Stadium Sunday? Even if he would play only a handful of snaps, it would be a way to at least get him some brief acclimation time before the first round of the playoffs. Not to mention energizing the crowd and his teammates at a place where the Cardinals have lost four consecutive games.

Being designated for return starts the 21-day practice window, and he could be activated at any time. Several national reports have said Watt’s goal is to play next week, but that’s not exactly a revelation.

Kingsbury insisted the decision to designate him for return Friday instead of early next week was “procedural,” but he then said, “He's done all he can do in the training room and weight room and then some, so we'll get him back out there and working him through some things.

“But he's attacked that rehab just like you'd assume he would. Nobody's ever seen anybody go at it quite like he has over the last couple of months. So it's been awe inspiring to watch him every day and it's always good to have him back on the field.”

But, here’s the rub: He wasn’t on the field Friday.

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When asked specifically why the move was made Friday, Kingsbury doubled down and said, “It's more just getting him out there because he's done everything he can rehab-wise, training-room wise. They'll continue to work through that, but it's just getting him back out there and seeing where it goes.

“It was just time to get him back on the grass and see how he feels and take it from there. He's literally done everything he could possibly do in the weight room and in the training room, so it was time to get him back out with the guys.”

Which isn’t where he was Friday morning.

Kingsbury did acknowledge that “it's big time to have that type of player come back and be around your guys. Everybody in this building has the utmost respect for what he's accomplished and how he works and what he's about. And, he leads through his actions and his words; he’s a tremendous public speaker as we found out. But it's great to have him and guys definitely perk up anytime 99’s around.”

Of course, the reality is that Watt has been around and everyone has witnessed his work ethic.

As center Rodney Hudson said, “He wants to get back. He's working hard. I always see him around. I think it speaks of how much he cares about the game and how much he cares about getting back and helping us play on Sunday. So like I said, always see him around, always working hard. And I know he's determined to get back.”

Safety Jalen Thompson was asked whether Watt can have an impact on the field even if he doesn’t play a lot of snaps whenever he plays.

He said, “Definitely. Definitely having J.J. back is huge. He's a leader for us. And just having a guy like that on the defensive line getting pressure on the QB; it's always a big help. So definitely having J.J. back is a plus.”

We’ll know officially Saturday afternoon whether there’s any chance of that actually happening the following day because that is the deadline for activating a player from reserve/injured.