Charlotte, NC (CBS HOUSTON) – Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt returned to the field on Wednesday night for the first time since Week 3 of the 2016 when Watt injured his back in New England.
“It felt really good,” said Watt. “Very pleased with it. It was a bit of a tease only getting to play four or five plays and having to come out. But better safe than sorry. And it was great. I’m very lucky. Very happy.”
Watt had surgery shortly after the injury which caused him to miss all 13 games and the Texans two playoffs games. But after a long rehab Watt was on the field for the Texans in Charlotte and looked to have his old burst of energy.
“I think that it’s very important – especially this year more than others – to make sure I get acclimated again,” said Watt. “Let my body see what it feels like to be out there, to make that tackle, to take some hits. I really enjoyed it.”
“You get him into live action, you get him prepping for a live game,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. “I think for all those guys that played a little bit, I thought it was good for them.”
Watt chased a play down the field about 20 yards early in the first series and was able to get pressure on Panthers quarterback David Anderson on his final play in the game.
“I don’t want to be chasing like that all the time,” said Watt. “I’m too damn tired when I get back to the huddle.”
Jadeveon Clowney, who also appeared to be brought down by Watt on 99’s chase down tackle was happy to see his teammate back on the field.
“It was great,” said defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. “I know he was happy to be there . . . I was happy for him to be out there. Hope we can both stay out there healthy this year. [I’m] looking for big things out of our defense.”
“It was good to get myself in on a tackle,” said Watt. “Whether I tackled the ball carrier or [Jadeveon Clowney], I don’t know who. But I tackled somebody and that’s all I wanted to do tonight, so it worked.”
After Watt left the game, he told Texans sideline reporter Drew Dougherty it felt like a “tease” only getting to play four or five snaps (much like he did in his post game media availability). Though he wants to play more, he understands why the Texans are limiting his playing time.
“It’s always frustrating,” said Watt. “You know as a competitor you get the juices flowing, you get back out there, and especially for myself being away for 11 months and then getting just a taste. But it was good. I understand the process. I understand their plan. And our plan is to get ready for the Jaguars [Week 1].”