J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans’ four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, was placed on the injured reserve list by the team Wednesday morning, raising the possibility that he may miss the remainder of the 2016 National Football League season.
Here’s what you need to know about Watt and his injury.
1. He Suffered a Recurrence of the Back Injury That Led To Offseason Surgery
Watt, 27, who has never missed a regular season game since his 2011 debut, underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a herniated disk in his spine. He was placed on the “Physically Unable to Perform” list but activated in time for the regular season.
But the back injury has clearly bothered him. He missed the Texans’ practice on Monday. Coach Bill O’Brien said that he was merely giving the superstar linebacker a day off after the team’s bruising loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday night. But according to a Houston Chronicle report, Watt was actually injured.
2. Watt Could Play Again This Season — But Probably Not
Being placed on injured reserve does not rule out a return by Watt sometime this season. He will be eligible to practice with the team after six weeks, and may return to game action in eight weeks. That would mean Watt could, in theory, play against the San Diego Chargers on November 27.
But he probably won’t, according to an ESPN report.
“A team source told ESPN’s Ed Werder that ‘I do believe that he will miss the season, but with the new rule this year, if he were to be ready in December, he could come off IR. Long shot,'” ESPN.com reported.
3. Watt Apparently Re-Injured His Back in the Patriots Game
With the Texans coming into New England at 2-0 last Thursday, and with the Patriots starting third-string, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Houston was expected to give the also unbeaten Patriots all they could handle. Instead, New England blanked the Texans 27-0 and Watt was a non-factor in the game, recording no sacks or tackles, and only two assists.
“I don’t remember a star player being on the ground as much as he was against the Patriots. I’m not bagging on him, but it’s a question of when he injured it during that game,” Dr. David Chao — a Chargers physician who does not treat Watt — told the Chronicle.
4. The Texans Have Already Signed a Fill-In for Watt
On Wednesday, the Texans announced the signing of 12-year veteran linebacker Antonio Smith. The 34-year-old who played five seasons for Houston from 2009 to 2013, was part of the Denver Broncos’ dominant defense last season — a defense that led that team to the Super Bowl 50 championship.
Smith recorded 27 sacks in his stint with the Texans, including seven in 2012 and 6 1/2 the previous year. He has 47 sacks in his career.
But though Smith appeared in all 19 regular season and postseason games for Denver last year, he never started and registered career lows of 2 1/2 regular season sacks and seven tackles.
Watt has registered 75 1/2 sacks in his five-year career.
5. Watt Earlier Said That His Career May Already Be Nearing Its End
Watt promised on Wednesday to return from his latest injury.
But he didn’t always feel that way.
The back surgery was Watts second surgical procedure of 2016. In January, he underwent a complicated procedure to repair five abdominal and side muscles. The rehab process appeared to take a lot out of him.
In a radio interview in April, Watt speculated that his career may end up a short one.
“It’s not going to be terribly longer,” he told a Houston station. “But I am going to play as long as I can enjoy it and have fun.”
He backtracked somewhat in an interview just before the season started.
“After the first surgery, there were some days there where I really questioned whether or not I’d ever be able to play again,” he said in early September, according to a Sporting News report. “Just some of the stuff we were dealing with from a rehab standpoint. And just the way that the recovery was going early on.”