J.J. Watt, long-time Houston Texans defensive end; 5x Pro Bow and 5x All-Pro selection, 2012 and 2014 Defensive Player of Year, 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, franchise leader in sacks (96.0), and NFL All-Time Team DE finalist are all examples as to why he is one of the greatest defensive ends to ever live. Though after numerous injuries that have limited his seasons, is it feasible to say that Watt’s days in the NFL are numbered? Below are the reasons why.
A New Age is Upon Us
The NFL is getting younger, faster, and more physically demanding. Today, players in their early and mid 20’s dominate in the NFL (i.e., NT Kenny Clark of the Packers, DE Myles Garrett of the Browns, LB Roquan Smith of the Bears). Not even 15 years ago, defensive players were brick walls with defensive linemen clocking in to be 6’5” 315 lbs. They were bulky, monstrous creatures who ate blocks and swallowed up the QB or RB. Today, defensive linemen are now weighing 270-290 lbs., while running a 4.50 second 40-yard dash. J.J. Watt has had the fortune of enjoying an incredible 9-year career in the NFL. To put that into perspective; the average duration of an NFL player’s career is 3-4 years. Watt has by far exceeded that time frame and, in that span, established himself as a future hall of fame defensive end. Though approaching his 30’s, his dominance and durability will no longer be sustainable, therefore pointing towards a retirement in the near future.
A Bandaid Can’t Fix That…
While Watt is now in year-9, he has been on IR for more than half the season with a torn pectoral muscle. In case you know little about muscles, this is a devastating injury as the pectoral muscle is in the chest which he uses to bull-rush the offensive tackles that he’s bullied over the years. On top of this major injury suffered in Week 8 of the 2019 campaign that had sidelined him for the entirety of the season, Watt has finished three of the previous four seasons cut short, as he was placed on Injured Reserve. Serious injuries he had suffered in that span like a torn pectoral muscle (2019), tibial plateau fracture in his leg (2017), and a vertebral disc hernia in his back (2016), are not trivial flesh wounds. These are painful and horrific traumas that the defensive end has been dealing with and will continue to struggle nursing these injuries as they will impede his performance on the field. With his latest season-ending injury, Watt needs to seriously consider his future wellness and the overall cost of playing in the NFL as his body continues to digress and his on-field appearances begin to dwindle.
I’m Too Old for this [Stuff] ~ Roger Murtaugh
Suffering serious injuries is not only physically burdening, but mentally as well. Upon dealing with an injury that immobilizes you for several months, it can take a drastic toll on your motivation to continue playing, especially when you suffer three of those injuries in four seasons as you approach the 30 year old milestone. When constantly being coordinated to the Injury Reserve, you begin to question if it’s even worth the struggle anymore. Recently retired QB Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts is a prime example of this. After dealing with nagging injuries that severely limited his play throughout his 6-year career in the NFL, he was literally beaten out of wanting to play anymore. He grew frustrated and demoralized with the constant process of rehabilitation that he no longer wanted to keep fighting in the NFL. It is for certain that J.J. Watt, as competitive as he is, is likely feeling the same impact of the injuries he’s dealing with and will soon call it quits in order to have a healthy life throughout the rest of his life.
Everyone’s Time Comes Eventually
As an athlete, you never want to accept the fact that it’s the last time you will lace up for a game. However, the time comes for everyone to give it up. Whether it’s due to an injury or the inability to keep up with the younger generation, or simply the lack of will or drive anymore, everyone will face that moment when it is time to hang up the jersey and leave the locker room for the last time. There is no shame or defeat in doing so. As a matter of fact, you are more so passing the torch to the young generation. J.J. Watt is a future Hall of Fame DE without any debate. With the amount of struggles he’s been dealing with on the field, he should accept that it’s time to hang up the cleats and enjoy a luxurious retirement.