One of the biggest defensive stars of the undefeated Cardinals could potentially miss the remainder of the season, per a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
First-year Arizona defensive end J.J. Watt, who was ruled out of the team’s “Thursday Night Football” game vs. the Packers with an unspecified shoulder injury, will reportedly undergo season-ending surgery. Schefter reports there is no date yet set for the procedure and that Watt’s injury was injured sometime during the second quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Texans.
Watt hasn’t put up All-Pro-caliber stats in his first year with the Cardinals, but has regardless been a significant contributor to the Arizona defense. He has played in and started all seven games this season, totaling 16 tackles (five for loss), a sack and 10 quarterback hits. He is tied with Chandler Jones in tackles for loss and ranks second on the team behind him in quarterback hits. He also has two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
How Arizona handles the potential loss of Watt this season could go a long way in how the rest of its 2021 campaign goes. The Cardinals, 7-0, are the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team and currently projected as the top seed in the NFC playoffs. They are also the top team in Sporting News’ power rankings.
With that, Sporting News breaks everything you need to know about Watt’s injury and timeline for return:
What is J.J. Watt’s injury?
It’s uncertain what Watt’s injury is, or its severity. The Cardinals on Wednesday only listed Watt as out for Thursday’s game vs. the Cardinals with an undisclosed shoulder issue.
However, it’s clearly serious enough to warrant potentially season-ending surgery. Per Schefter, Watt suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Cardinals’ 31-5 win over his former team, the Texans. He continued playing through the injury, particularly exacerbating the issue (though that has not been confirmed).
Watt finished the game with one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit.
How long will J.J. Watt be out?
Schefter described the surgery as season-ending, though Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network specified the projected recovery timeline to be at least three months.
Assuming a best-case scenario in which Watt only need three months to recover — and assuming Watt gets the procedure done before the week is out — that would create a slim chance he could return in late January. The NFC championship game is on Jan. 30, 2022; Super Bowl 56 follows two weeks after, on Feb. 13.
That would obviously require a deep playoff run by the Cardinals, likely all the way to the Super Bowl. That said, he does have a history of returning from injury to participate in the playoffs. Watt, then with the Texans, was placed on injured reserve in 2019 after suffering a pectoral injury on Oct. 27. He was activated in time for the Texans’ second-round game vs. the Chiefs on Jan. 12, though he did not log any stats in the 51-31 loss.
Of course, his injury then and now are completely different and require different timelines and treatments for any return. But if the Cardinals make a deep playoff run, it’s certainly possible Watt will attempt a comeback with his new team.
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