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Father-To-Be J.J. Watt Continues To Evolve 

Cardinals need defensive lineman on field in second season with team

Defensive lineman J.J. Watt (99) leads the way during a drill at a recent OTA.
Defensive lineman J.J. Watt (99) leads the way during a drill at a recent OTA.

D.J. Humphries was in the middle of his press conference when he learned for the first time teammate J.J. Watt – who happened to be standing at the back of the room waiting for his turn to speak – was going to be a father.

"Is this a real thing?" Humphries said, before bellowing across the room, "Dad! Pa-PA!"

When Watt got behind the microphone, he was decidedly more low-key, although he drifted into a smile when he talked about his son-to-be – due in October – and trying to find a name for the next generation of Watt.

"I'm excited that during my career that hopefully I will have a photo of my child on the field," the defensive end said. "That would be very cool."

Life is about change, whether it's Watt's first offspring or his approach to what will be his 12th NFL season.

He has been at the Dignity Health Training Center almost daily for the vast majority of the offseason. At 33, preparation grows more important yearly. Watt, after losing more than half his season to a shoulder injury before returning for the Cardinals' playoff loss, was in Tempe the day after the season working with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris on his offseason plan.

"My process is the further I get off the track – like if I took a month off after the season – the harder it is to get back on the track," Watt said.

He did take three days off in a row in there, letting himself indulge.

"Eat or drink whatever you want," Watt said. "Pound, like, two sleeves of Oreos, drink 10 Guinness, go to McDonald's for the whole menu and then you spend some time in the bathroom. That's just the way it goes."

The veteran reiterated his love of the Arizona heat and the natural grass at the facility as the best to train for him. He did miss the first OTA this week while broadcasting the made-for-TV golf event in Las Vegas with quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, but otherwise, Watt has made the voluntary work all offseason mandatory for himself.

"I don't think you can get better at football without playing football," Watt said.

Playing football is what the Cardinals need. "It would be great if we had him all 17 games," coach Kliff Kingsbury said, and noted that the Cardinals were 7-0 when Watt was playing in the regular season (and were only 4-6 without him.)

The Cardinals could use his play in the middle of the defensive line. It suffered once Watt went down. If Watt can manage to find his way through a complete season, it'll change the dynamic of what defensive coordinator Vance Joseph can do with his unit.

Of course, that could be affected by something other than injury now. It's tough to know when Baby Watt will arrive, although Kingsbury is aware of the situation.

"Having a baby is super foreign to me, so I kind of stay away from that, and let the guys who have gone through that let them talk them through that," Kingsbury said with a smile. "But I am sure we've worked it out with previous situations."

Humphries, himself a father, promised that he had a book on fatherhood he could give Watt.

"It's got a little blood, a little tears," Humphries said.

Watt, admittedly, is skeptical.

"I'm going to wait for that book," Watt said. "All these guys tell me they're going to give me tips. I haven't got one tip yet."

Images from the seventh OTA of the 2022 Cardinals' offseason