Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – The Houston Texans took a big hit losing star defensive end J.J. Watt for the foreseeable future with a back injury on Wednesday. The team placed the three-time defensive player of the year award winner on the IR just a few days before the Texans play their first division game of the year against the Tennessee Titans.
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien addressed the media Wednesday after practice. Before taking any questions O’Brien talked about the hardships of replacing such a dynamic player.
“You can never replace the best player in the NFL,” O’Brien said of Watt. “When someone like that goes down it’s a tough thing, obviously, but at the same time this is a football team. A team made up of some really good veteran leaders, some really good young players, a lot of good players. Got a lot of good players in that locker room and we are looking forward to the challenges that are ahead.”
O’Brien continued talking about the injury and why the team decided to put Watt on the IR:
“J.J. as it relates to him personally, obviously we all feel bad for him. He and I are very close, developed a great relationship in the last three years. J.J. did everything, absolutely everything he could do get back on the field after surgery this summer. He followed his doctor’s orders. He played it smart. He passed every test before being cleared to play. He felt good in the Kansas City game, felt like he was starting to play like himself again. Have no idea when his back injury reoccurred. Just have no idea about that. It’s flared up to a point here he can’t continue to play right now.
Going on IR will give J.J. all the time he needs to make sure that he is 100% healthy and back to being himself the next time he steps on the football field. This decision, made by the organization, is in the best interest of J.J.’s long term health. And that is what is most important to us, the organization. There is nothing more important than the health of this player.”
The Texans head coach didn’t want to get into answering all the questions about Watt, saying he had “no idea” if Watt would require surgery, or if it was the same disc Watt had operated on in July.
O’Brien did say that Watt was cleared to play on short rest before the Texans lost 27-0 to the New England Patriots on Thursday night, “Every player that plays in the game was cleared to play if they are coming off of injury. He was cleared to play, he played.”
No Watt means players like Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and John Simon will be looked upon to pick up the slack a little bit, but O’Brien doesn’t think the hole Watt leaves is so big it can’t be filled.
“We are a team and we have a number of good players in all three phases of the game,” he said. “We also have a good strong coaching staff that understands the game of football and everybody is going to have to do their job, just like they have to do every week in this league.”
J.J. Watt has not missed a game in his career, as he will possibly for the rest of the season. In 83 games since 2011 Watt has 76 sacks, which is the most by any player in that time frame.