Kittle, CMC reflect on Watt's dominant NFL career before finale


SANTA CLARA — The 49ers will face Arizona Cardinals star pass rusher J.J. Watt on Sunday in what is slated as the final game of his NFL career. 

The defensive end announced his plans to retire after the Cardinals' final home game in Week 16. Several 49ers players spoke Thursday about facing Watt for the last time and how dominant his play has been throughout his career. 

“Man, I got so much respect for him and what he has done in his career,” 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey said. “It’s been an a phenomenal career and he’s somebody and who exemplifies what it means to be a football player. It’s an honor to share the field with him one last time in his career.”

George Kittle has faced Watt several times on the field, including joint practices with the Houston Texans, where Watt played for 10 seasons. The tight end recalled that 2018 exhibition matchup when he “laid waste” to the many 49ers players who had to face him. 

Watt’s unique ability to play across the line is what makes him very unique. Even 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa believes that the Cardinals star player has abilities that no other players can replicate. 

“He plays outside the scene which is really bad for some teams,” Kittle said. “But he was so good at it, that he can completely leave his gap, go back two gaps, and still get back front side and make a tackle. 

“There’s not a lot of guys who can do that, especially when he’s on the interior doing that stuff. He’s fast, he’s violent, and he’s just so strong.”  

Trent Williams has had his battles with Watt throughout the years and believes that the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible. The 49ers left tackle also believes that Watt could play longer if desired.  

“Really good guy, he deserves it all,” Williams said. “He is just a blend of size speed and skill that you don’t get too often. He is one of those that people label ‘a freak.’ Close to 6’7, 6’6. He’s got the lateral movement of a cat, real quick. 

“Really, really strong but I think what a lot of people don’t realize -- how smart he is, his football IQ, and how hard it is to get stuff past him in the trenches. He is a thorn in any offense’s backside.”

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Watt leads the Cardinals with 10.5 sacks through 15 games. The talented pass rusher also had registered 34 total tackles -- 27 solo, 15 for a loss, and 23 quarterback hits. PFF data shows Watt recording 52 pressures -- 11 sacks, 14 hits and 27 hurries. 

“It’s his last game and he’s going to do everything he can to make a huge impact on that game,” Kittle said. “He’s an absolute monster. We are going to do everything we can to give him a nice send off and try to keep him off the stat sheet as best we can." 

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