As Kliff Kingsbury was speaking with the media prior to Monday’s training camp practice in Glendale, music with a deep bass thumped from the Cardinals locker room. Dennis Gardeck was in charge of the music, the day he and J.J. Watt made their training camp debuts.
“It was like dance EDM-type stuff. But the first song, I mean, it probably took a good 12 minutes for the beat to drop. It took a while, but we got there, and then it picked up and it was great,” said Watt. “It was a celebratory day.”
Gardeck’s choice to set the mood ahead of practice? “Opus” by Eric Prydz.
“You got to be patient with it. It is a long build. It's worth it though,” said Gardeck. “It’s like a hike, the higher you climb, the more pretty the view is, or whatever.”
The view of some pass-rushing help was a pretty sight for Kliff Kingsbury and the coaching staff, specifically seeing their prized free-agent signing suiting up.
“It's definitely a plus,” Kingsbury said of getting Watt back. “He’s played in the system before, so we know he knows it, but just his intensity, his focus, his attention detail on the practice field will be great for our defense and our entire team.”
Watt was only supposed to participate in individual drills as they continued with the ultra-cautious approach to getting him back from a hamstring injury, but once he got into the flow, Watt said he felt like a dog chasing a tennis ball.
“You're just like, wherever it bounces you want to get it and you're so excited to be out there and like, it doesn't matter if you're supposed to go where it bounces, you're just going, and that's what it felt like today. You're just so excited to be out there and excited to be playing with the guys and it was a lot of fun.”
Watt acknowledged that he’ll have to be smart with his snap counts once the regular season begins, but echoing what Kingsbury has said all along, he’s not concerned with missing this much of camp and the preseason on a new team.
“No problem at all,” Watt said. “I’m well versed in the defense. Obviously, I've been in all the meetings and have been studying and watching the film the entire time, so no worries there. Now it's just a matter of getting out there with the guys and getting an understanding of how things go. And, especially, with Zaven [Collins] and Isaiah [Simmons] and those guys back there, making sure that we're all seeing the plays the same way.”
As for what value the preseason adds for Watt this far into his career?
“The very first-ever preseason game taught me the value of not warming up too hard. That was the most value I got early on was, I came out and I thought the warm-up was the Super Bowl, so I was tired before the first snap went off,” Watt said of his debut on a Monday Night Football preseason game against the Jets. “We went back in the locker room for like the national anthem and all that stuff, and I was like, ‘I got to slow down, I'm going to die,’ and the game hadn't even started. So, I learned that, but overall, year 11, I've been in a lot of football games. I've been in a lot of situations, so I know what my body needs to be ready for game one, and I don't think the preseason games are one of those things that are absolutely necessary.”
Meanwhile, Gardeck returns from a far more serious injury, a torn ACL suffered last season. The Cardinals will continue a cautious approach for Gardeck that is day-to-day at this point.
“As far as me being comfortable with myself, that hasn't been an issue at all through the process, but just being back out there with the guys and everything was so exciting,” Gardeck said. “That was really fun.”
“I’m definitely kind of getting that anticipation, that itch again. It’s been a lot of trust with the guys that are taking care of me, understanding that they got a good plan for me. And again, just sticking to the plan.”