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J.J. Watt Embracing Offseason Preparation With Cardinals

Star defensive end laying groundwork in advance of regular season


Rules are more like suggestions to NFL superstars.

If J.J. Watt wanted to loaf through the Cardinals' OTA session on Wednesday, few would have batted an eye.

But the veteran defensive end did the exact opposite, buzzing around excitedly during the on-field work with his new teammates.

"He's locked in all the time," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "He's a team guy. Incredible work ethic. Incredible leadership. It's been a real joy to see him around the building."

When the regular season begins, the Cardinals are hoping Watt can return to the form that once made him the most feared defensive player in the NFL. In the meantime, Watt continues to prepare as much as possible for the opportunity, even under the scorching hot sun in the middle of the offseason.

"You obviously have to love the work," Watt said. "If you don't love the work, if you don't love the process and what it takes for day-to-day improvement, then you're not really going to ever make it too far. Talent is great, but you have to be able to cultivate and build upon that. That's what I love about this game. Every single day you can go out there and improve, and you get to test yourself against other unbelievable athletes.

"You put it all together on game day, and it's me vs. you in who worked harder, who's smarter, who knows how to play the game better. It's a beautiful game, and that's what I love. And being down here with a fresh start, new energy … there is just something to the new scene. There is a lot of energy and excitement, and I'm very, very excited to get to work."

Even though his production dwarfs the other defensive linemen on the team, Watt is still the new guy in Arizona. He needed counseling from defensive end Zach Allen on how to get to the meeting rooms this week.

The first morning he arrived, Watt turned too quickly and ended up at a neighboring park. While he enjoys participating in the offseason work, he also deems it integral after joining a new team.

"I don't want to drive into those soccer fields on the first day of training camp," Watt said. "I'd rather do it in June than in August. I'm trying to get those kinks out. I want to get with the guys and build those relationships and start to build that camaraderie and chemistry, because I know I'm new here. These guys need to get to know me as I need to get to know them. You want to know about their families. You want to know what makes them tick."

Watt is an affable superstar, which is evident in his press conferences. Running back Chase Edmonds said the players have received the same vibe, as Watt is quickly making in-roads.

"I remember being a young guy, and when you see certain star players, you do get starry-eyed," Edmonds said. "It's good when they come in more relaxed. It's like, 'Oh, man, he's just one of the guys. He's not some superstar guy that's too good to talk to someone or not acknowledge someone.' We've got a great veteran presence on this team so it does wonders for us."

Watt is laying the groundwork now, hopeful that it helps in the future.

"For a guy in my situation, it's good to get around your teammates, it's good to be on the field and build that chemistry," Watt said. "Is it the most necessary thing in the entire world? No. Is it beneficial? Yeah."

Images from Wednesday's OTA session at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center