J.J. Watt recalled the times in his career that he had gotten into practice so much that he was batting down passes at the line of scrimmage during walkthroughs.
"I've been kicked out of a drill or two in my day," Watt said with a grin.
But on a day in which the Cardinals' new defensive end didn't practice during the opening workout of training camp Wednesday – hurting his hamstring in the conditioning test the day before enough to land on the active Physically Unable to Perform list – those times when he got too rambunctious going after passes also served as a lesson to the situation he now faced on the sideline.
"I understand that sometimes I needed to be taken out for one reason or another so we could get the proper looks," Watt said. "I've had my qualms (with sitting) in the past. And even with this (hamstring) now, in the past I'd fight people on keeping me out.
"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."
Watt said it was "a little soreness." The news came after Kliff Kingsbury's pre-practice news conference, and the PUP designation wasn't known until after Watt talked. Watt said he wouldn't practice Thursday either; beyond that is an unknown although Watt said "we're going to take it very slowly."
It still bothers Watt, who said his favorite thing was still being around his teammates and getting to know them – which is necessary to lead. While the Cardinals do need him to perform on the field to make the signing worthwhile, he has still left an imprint in the defensive line room already.
"Every day you're being watched," second-year lineman Rashard Lawrence said. "Every day you're either getting better or getting worse. J.J. taught me you can't take anything for granted. We're always pushing each other, we're all trying to show this is right group."
The start was obviously not what Watt wanted. He's acutely aware of the opinions out there that consider him injury-prone and too old to be effective. He understands some wonder what he has left, after his six-sack season in Houston in 2020.
But while some of those very comments filtered in following a tweet about his hamstring injury, Watt noted that he was willing to use the criticism.
"I'm not going to turn it away," Watt said. "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 (about the hamstring), 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 (expletive) 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."