Last spring, J.J. Watt went on the radio in Houston and shocked the city by saying, at age 27, he didn’t intend to play in the NFL much longer.
“I can tell you right now that I am not going to be one of those guys that is going to play as long as I possibly can. I have no interest in that. I want to go out there, I want to play at an extremely high level, I want to help my team out and I want to love playing the game and I want to have fun playing the game. I know I don’t plan on playing the game as long as I possibly can. It’s not going to be terribly longer but I am going to play as long as I can enjoy it and have fun.”
Later in the same interview, Watt re-iterated for anyone who may have been confused that he was indeed saying what it sounded like he was saying.
“I’m not going to play very much longer, myself.”
So this provides some context for what may be going through Watt’s mind today, the morning after he suffered a season-ending broken leg against the Kansas City Chiefs. The injuries began piling up on Watt in 2015, when he started all 16 games despite having a broken hand and needing surgery on his groin. Last year, he had back surgery, came back, hurt his back again and missed most of the year.
To review, since Watt said he didn’t plan on playing much longer, he’s suffered two back injuries and a broken leg. By the time his leg heals, Watt will have missed 24 of his team’s last 32 games and will be a couple months away from his 29th birthday.
I think it’s unlikely Watt will step away after this injury, but if he were to do so, he would go down as a likely Hall of Fame selection with a good deal of unfinished business in Houston. His own personal legacy is secure, but the Texans have not gotten a whole lot out of it. Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has spent the majority of his career on teams with astoundingly incompetent quarterback play. Since drafting Watt in 2011, they have not gotten particularly close to the AFC championship game, much less the Super Bowl.
The Texans (finally) seem to have fixed that problem with rookie Deshaun Watson, and it’s difficult to imagine Watt not wanting to come back and see what might happen as Watson grows.
Then again, he was pretty clear last spring about his intentions.