INGLEWOOD, California - The Arizona Cardinals activated defensive lineman JJ Watt out of the injured reserve Monday afternoon, just hours before playing the Los Angeles Rams in this weekend's final NFC wildcard game.
It was the next formal step for Watt to play Monday night and complete yet another quick recovery after a serious injury. Watt suffered a shoulder injury on October 24, and after undergoing surgery on November 3, he was told he would be out four to six months. If he plays Monday night, it would have only been 13 weeks since the injury.
Watt's final step to take the field on Monday comes 90 minutes before the match when the inactive are announced. If he is active, it is likely that he will play.
Watt has teased the idea that he would return Monday night through various posts on social media. On Friday, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told reporters, "Do not be surprised if he is ready to go." Watts return would be welcomed by the Cardinals.
They were 7-0 with him, but 4-6 without him. Their defense led the NFL in scoring defense and had the best defensive efficiency with Watt on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Since Watts 'injury, the Cardinals' defense allowed an NFL worst 61 Total QBR since Week 8 and generated pressure with the third-lowest rate in the league during that time, making it 23% of opposing QB dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Watt may be the answer to slowing down the Cardinals' latest slip-up: They lost four of their last five. Having Watt back would "no doubt give us a boost," head coach Kliff Kingsbury has said.
Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is in his first season with the Cardinals after 10 seasons with the Houston Texans. He has one layoff this season and 102 in his career.