Tough rehab had J.J. Watt worried about playing football again

HOUSTON — Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said there was a point during the offseason when he didn’t know whether he’d ever play football again.

After the Texans’ 30-0 loss in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Kansas City Chiefs, Watt had major surgery in Philadelphia in January. Watt said he had five muscles repaired and both of his lower abs had to be reattached. He also had to have his abductors (one right and two left) reattached.

As he lay for 10 straight days in a Philadelphia hotel room, Watt said he was overwhelmed with the rehab process and his inability to even walk or get out of bed.

And even though he underwent back surgery just before the start of training camp, Watt said there was no doubt in his mind that he would be ready to play in the regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears.

“No, there was never a doubt,” Watt said. “Those guys were awesome in helping me and also awesome in being willing to have an aggressive approach. After a surgery, the rehab can go one of many ways, and these guys were willing to accept my aggressive style, and we did it in a smart fashion, but we did it in a way that we knew that this really wasn’t going to be an issue.”

Watt has not missed a game in his five-year NFL career, playing in 85 consecutive games, including the playoffs.

Watt has not missed a game in his five-year NFL career, playing in 85 consecutive games, including playoffs. Watt has played in 89.9 percent of the Texans’ defensive snaps since he was drafted in 2011, which is the highest percentage among all defensive linemen, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Since 2012, Watt has played in 92.8 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

And so, though Watt said the coaching staff might be cautious and put some limitations on what he can do or how long he can play, he plans to fight to play as much as he has in the past.

“I’m sure that they are going to try to put some limitations on me and we are going to have that conversation here as the week goes on,” Watt said. “The way that I felt in the last two practices, I don’t feel it’s necessary. My body feels great. My conditioning level feels great.”

Watt said this has been a tough offseason after going through two surgeries and two rehabs, but it has changed his perspective to not take his health for granted.

“It definitely gives you a new outlook, kind of a fresh approach,” Watt said. “You see things from a different light when you’re going through stuff like that and you go through the ups and downs.

“There have been some days where it has sucked, where it absolutely sucked, but I really enjoyed the adversity that we faced and I enjoyed having to overcome those things and challenges that I really haven’t had before. I hope to never have an offseason like this again. But I definitely learned and grew from it.”

“When I was in Philadelphia after the first surgery, there were some days there where I really questioned whether or not I’d ever be able to play again,” Watt said. “Just some of the stuff we were dealing with from a rehab standpoint. And just the way that the recovery was going early on.”