NFL Comes Down Hard on T.J. Watt for Cell Phone Joke

T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers

Getty T.J. Watt prepares for the game.

T.J. Watt recently found out the hard way the reason why people say NFL stands for No Fun League.

Fresh off his well-deserved and overdue Defensive Player of the Year nod, Watt revealed he’s a little lighter in the wallet because of a joke. It wasn’t a good joke either — there wasn’t even a punchline.

Watt was on a personal mission in the January 9 regular season finale matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens, chasing the single-season sack record of 22.5 set two decades prior by New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

And he nearly had it.

Only the league ruled the botched snap between Ravens center Bradley Bozeman and quarterback Tyler Huntley as an aborted play. Instead of a sack, Watt was only credited with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

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Watt shared the moment he found out the NFL didn’t give him the sack record on a January 18 episode of the Dan Patrick Show.

“I thought I had two [sacks], and I checked my phone because our D-line coach was like, ‘They’re giving it to you, they’re giving it to you. You have it,’” Watt said. “But then a couple of other guys said, ‘No, you’re not.’”

“So I checked my phone at halftime – which I never do. And then in J.J. and my brother’s group chat, [J.J.] was like, ‘They only gave you one man, you gotta go get another one.”

Not a Laughing Matter

Watt sounded dead serious when telling the story to Patrick and the NFL took it as such.

Someone from the league caught wind of Watt’s admission (or read all of the outlets that wrote about it) and brought the hammer down.

On a February 15 episode of Barstool’s Pardon My Take, Watt disclosed, “I received a fine for saying [that I used my cell phone] jokingly in an interview… I jokingly said that I used my cell phone at halftime during the Baltimore game, and the NFL took it as a real saying and fined me ten thousand dollars.”


Ten thousand dollars is chump change to a professional athlete, especially the highest-paid defender. Watt signed a historic four-year, $112 million contract with $80 million in guarantees in September 2021.

Though Watt didn’t say exactly when the league fined him, it was at least nearly two weeks after the violation. Watt’s interview on Dan Patrick was nine days after the game in Baltimore.

It wasn’t Watt’s first fine of the season. In a Week 6 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the All-Pro linebacker was fined $10,815 for attempting to punch the ball out of running back Alex Collins’ grip.

No Fun League.

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