HOUSTON – After a tweet from Texans defensive end JJ Watt stirred speculation that the star player could be ready to play in the team's regular season opener Sunday, he joined his teammates for practice Monday.
Sunday’s home opener vs. the Chicago Bears will be exactly seven-and-a-half weeks since Watt had surgery on his spine.
When asked if Watt will play Sunday, head coach Bill O'Brien said, "I would say that he will play. Beyond that, I’m not going to answer too much more about that. But I’ll say that he’ll play in the game.”
Offensive lineman Derek Newton was also back at practice Monday.
“It was good to have them back at practice today. Both guys were in there, working with their teammates. It’s always good to have your team as close to full strength as possible," O'Brien said. "I think with anybody that comes off of being out for a while, the first thing you want to look at is their level of conditioning and where they’re at as it relates to their own conditioning and their own ability to stay in there and sustain plays throughout a drive."
On July 20, the NFL said Watt had to have surgery on a herniated disc, a typically painful procedure that doctors said takes eight to 12 weeks of recovery.
Watt has left hints that he is already healed and prepared to take on the Bears. Sunday night, he tweeted a photo with the caption, "It’s time."
Coach Bill O'Brien said this weekend that Watt passed his physical and may be ready for practice Monday.
Previously, orthopedic surgeon Neil Badlani told KPRC2 health reporter Haley Hernandez that Watt should not come back too soon and risk recurring injury.
"A normal rehab process for this would be probably eight weeks minimum, and that's really pushing it,” Badlani said. “It's probably more like 10 to 12 weeks. Again, there (are) variations depending on how big the herniated disc was and the individual athlete."
If Watt does OK in practice this week, he could be ready to play the Bears at NRG Stadium for the regular season opener Sunday.