HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) At his press conference today, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien confirmed the worst: that Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus will BOTH miss the remainder of the season. Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture, while Whitney Mercilus tore his pectoral muscle.
“Two good players, obviously,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien of the duo. “Great players. Obviously, we all feel terrible for them individually, personally. It’s tough to put in all the work that they put in, pour their hearts and soul into the thing and then to have their seasons cut short because of an injury. It’s tough.”
“I feel bad,” continued O’Brien later in his press conference. “I can’t express it any other way. I’ve gotten to know this guy, these guys, over the last four years. They mean a lot to me personally. I’ve asked them to do a lot of different things. I’ve asked them to be leaders, I’ve asked them to put a lot of time into this thing, I’ve asked them to play different positions, I’ve personally asked them to be here in the offseason and be here every day and they’ve done it. I owe a lot to them for buying into that and they’ve played at a very high level for us. Like I said, the deal in this league though is that the train doesn’t stop moving. The train keeps going and that’s the deal with the league. That’s what makes the NFL what it is. These guys that are there, they’re going to have to step in and like I said, it’s going to be multiple guys. You don’t replace J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus with one guy. That’s just ridiculous. It’s going to be a lot of different guys that are going to chip in to help and I think the coaching staff needs to do a great job, too.”
The Texans locker room seemed fairly somber today, and understandably so. It can’t be easy for human beings to embrace a “Next Man Up” mentality after two of the team’s leaders went down with season-ending injuries. But with 11 regular season games left, the Texans have no choice. Here is what the team was saying about the injuries today.
LINEBACKER JADEVEON CLOWNEY
“It hurts. It’s a big blow to the team. A lot of our game plan was around those two. We have to find a way to regroup. We have a lot of season left.”
“I’ve been there before. I was hurt when I first got here, my first game out. I texted J.J. (Watt) last night and said, ‘Man, I know you’re one of the strongest guys I’ve been around so I know you’ll be back.’ It’s a long process.”
“The guys up front. We still have to play, regardless of who’s out there or not. A lot of guys need to step in and step up.”
DEFENSIVE END CHRISTIAN COVINGTON
“You still feel bad, especially to find out that they were season-enders. That’s always tough, it really is. Our heart goes out to them. Our prayers are going to be with them. I pray for speedy recoveries for the both of them. It’s time for us to step up now.”
“We’re all going to have to step up. We’re going to have to do our jobs, and not just do our jobs, we’re going to have to excel exponentially. With that being said, everybody knows it. Everybody knows what it looks like with the guys that went down and at the end of the day, it goes back to the ‘next man up’ mentality. We know what’s at stake and we know that we have to elevate our game that much more.”
“Those are two class acts, two of the best players I’ve ever been around in my life. Two of the best athletes I’ve ever been around in my life. They’ve taught me how to truly be a professional in this game, how to attack every single work day as if it’s your last day playing this sport. I’m going to take what I’ve learned from them over these years and try to apply that with every situation every single day.”
“Football is a beautiful game, it’s a brutal game, it’s a game unlike any other. It’s one of those things where you just have to calm yourself down and truly just take in everything that’s going around you and know that you’re in this position for a reason, you’re in this league just like everybody else and whoever’s that guy to step up, they have to know that they’re confident in their play and that they’re going to be able to go on that field and make plays.”
“No doubt in my mind [that they’ll be able to bounce back from these injuries]. It’s J.J. He’s a resilient guy. He’s tenacious with his work ethic. It’s unmatched by anybody in this league. So, just having a teammate like that, I already know he’s going to put the work in to be able to come back full-go, and that’s the same with Whitney (Mercilus). That’s another guy that’s really an underrated guy in this league who’s just been a tremendous, tremendous guy, an asset on this team. I know he’s going to come back with full force, too. He’s going to be ready to go as soon as he can, too.”
TIGHT END RYAN GRIFFIN
“It really hits home when you wake up this morning. Knowing that J.J.’s not going to be there on the field. Whitney’s not going to here in the locker room with us. It hurts. They’re on the leadership council. Obviously, J.J. is Houston’s unofficial Mayor. It sucks that we lose those guys like that. But we’ve got to put the work back in and to get back at it.”
“Those guys are warriors. They’re like family to us. And it sucks to lose them for some injuries like that. So all we can do is just support them through their rehab process. And hopefully they can get back here as soon as possible.”
LINEBACKER BERNARDRICK MCKINNEY
“It was hard to see. Two great players, J.J. and Whitney. Great players. Great pass rushers. It was kind of hard, but we just have to keep playing and just try to fight through.”
“J.J. Watt brings a lot of juice to the field. Whitney is a great leader. We’re always talking on the field on third down when I’m rushing. They bring a lot of juice to this defense. They do a lot for us. And we’ve just got to get somebody to step up.”
DEFENSIVE TACKLE D.J. READER
“It’ll be tough. But somebody has got to step up and play. Somebody’s got to get out there and play. We can’t get down on ourselves. You always hate to lose a brother, but you’ve got to go out there and put something on the field.
“It sucks [to see Watt get injured after putting in all that effort to return]. Sucks. He worked hard to get back back. And now he’s gone again. It’s rough. It’s tough. But he’ll bounce back. He’s a strong person. He’ll be good”
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesday 9-11 PM CT, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-11 PM CT – on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.