The NFL’s best defensive player might not be ready for the start of the 2016 season. J.J. Watt underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a herniated disc, and the estimated recovery time has the Houston Texans' defensive end missing all of training camp, at the very least.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Texans are hoping Watt will be good to go for the team’s regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 11, but a recovery of eight weeks is Watt’s best-case scenario. A source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL Media that Watt might need 10 weeks to recover, which could force him to miss multiple games.
The first Sunday of the NFL season will mark seven and a half weeks since Watt’s surgery, making it a real possibility that he'll miss Week 1. If he does end up needing 10 weeks to recover, Watt will be forced to sit out Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as Houston’s Week 3 visit to New England. The game against the Patriots is set for Thursday night, making it nine weeks and a day after Watt went under the knife.
Houston’s Week 4 contest against the Tennessee Titans is scheduled for 10 and a half weeks after Watt’s surgery.
The back injury is just one of a few ailments that have affected Watt since the end of last season. He left Houston’s wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs with torn muscles in his torso, groin and upper legs. Watt was forced to play with a cast for four games because of a broken hand, and he didn’t miss any games despite suffering the herniated disk mid-season.
“Last year, was definitely by far the most strenuous on my body that I’ve ever had, fighting through a bunch of things that I’ve never dealt with before,” Watt told Sports Radio 610 in Houston in March. “We had the broken hand. I had a herniated disk in my back halfway through the year. I had, obviously, everything that went on with my groins and I don’t think everyone fully understand what that process was like.”
Having won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in two straight seasons, and three times in the last four seasons, Watt has established himself as one of the most dominant defenders the league has seen in years. He recorded 17.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and eight pass deflections in 2015, helping the Texans rank third in overall defense.
Lawrence Taylor is the only other player in NFL history to be named the league’s top defender three times.