HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — Barely a month removed from serious back surgery, star Texans defensive end J.J. Watt returned to practice and will play against the Bears on Sunday, head coach Bill O’Brien officially confirmed on Monday.
“He’ll play, but beyond that I won’t answer too much more,” O’Brien said. “But I’ll say he’ll play in the game.”
Watt passed a physical on Sunday, meaning he returned to practice a mere five weeks after surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. There was even a report midway through Training Camp that he would miss the first two games of the season.
The original timetable predicted six weeks as an optimistic goal for Watt, but the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year remarkably beat the odds.
Duane Brown, who has been dealing with a serious injury himself all offseason, said he has a lot of respect for Watt’s rapid return.
“He’s done what a lot of people deemed impossible,” Brown said. “But I’ve watched him put in the work putting in the work with him. He’s a special person and my hats off to him.”
Linebacker Brian Cushing, who suffered serious knee injuries in recent seasons, echoed his longtime teammate’s sentiments about Watt.
“It’s a tough sport and it takes a lot out of you,” Cushing said. “He’s got a lot of will and a lot of heart, and you know he’ll be back [playing hard].”
Derek Newton also practiced again after dressing out against the Cowboys but not playing a snap.
While conditioning could be an issue, Newton is another key player back in the trenches when the Texans open a highly-anticipated season. O’Brien wants to see how Newton and Watt work their way back into game shape.
“With anybody that comes off being out for a while, the first thing you look at is their level of conditioning,” O’Brien said. “What’s their ability to stay in there and sustain plays throughout a drive, that’s a big thing. How are they reacting to what their injury was… but they looked to be working well.”