Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is anticipating playing on Sunday night against the New England Patriots despite a broken left hand. Watt hasn’t practiced since breaking his hand on Wednesday but according to USA Today, J.J. isn’t going to let the injury impede him from continuing with his stellar year.
Watt hasn’t elaborated on how the hand was broken but did say as soon as the injury occurred he knew it was a break. J.J. told ESPN that it wasn’t the worst injury he’s had to play through and explained that continuing with the game is something players need to do sometimes.
“Football is a game where things happen and you play through it,” Watt continued, “You go out there, you do whatever you can to help your team win. So that’s what I plan to do.”
Watt, who is already struggling with a groin injury, is the backbone of the Texans defense. J.J. was last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year and though Watt’s season got off to a rocky start, his intense playing the month of November has catapulted Watt to NFL leader status in quarterback sacks.
Though the Texans have struggled in the offense with quarterback shifts between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, they have relied heavily on the steady performance of Watt and his fellow defenders to keep them in the playoff hunt. The Texans gained some serious steam after toppling the then undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. At the time, J.J. was riding the high off a performance that held Andy Dalton to zero passes into the end zone.
The Texans rode the momentum of that win through two more victories against the Jets and the Saints but then J.J. and company were stopped in their tracks by a tough loss to the Buffalo Bills in which Watt and the Texans defense gave up thirty points. Currently at six and six and sitting in second place for the AFC South, Watt and his teammates realize how imperative a win against the Patriots is to keep their post season hopes alive.
While the Patriots are no longer seen as unbeatable with two losses in a row and a depleted offense, Watt will still be facing one of the top notch quarterbacks in the league in Tom Brady on Sunday. It’s unknown if J.J. will have to square off against Gronkowski, a dominating tight end who when healthy himself would give an uninjured Watt a run for his money. While Gronkowski returned to practice Friday after nursing a knee injury, he was vague with the media deferring them to Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick regarding his game status against Watt and the Texans on Sunday.
J.J. Watt is no stranger to pushing through an injury. One of the most famous photos of Watt is of his bloodied face during the a battle with the Seahawks in 2013.
In the 2012 season, Watt experienced a dislocated elbow in preseason resulting in torn ligaments. Watt continued to play despite the pain, utilizing a brace for support, and not only persevered but flourished. Watt’s 2012 season not only found him to be the leader in sacks but J.J. recorded a new NFL record that year.
If the 2012 season is any indication of what Watt can do while injured, perhaps the Texans can still cling to the hope that their opportunity to make the playoffs can still come to fruition. Though it is unlikely that Watt will be out of a cast by January, the past would indicate that the Texans have generally rested on the shoulders of J.J. Watt, not his left hand.
[J.J. Watt cover image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.]