One of the biggest stories of Wild Card Weekend is the return of Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt from a torn pectoral muscle. Watt has pushed through rehab and will be back playing after missing the final eight games of the Texans season.
After starting his career on a Hall of Fame pace, J.J. Watt has missed an average of a half-season the past four years (although according to Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor, Watt could retire today and get in). Watt missed 13 games in 2016, 11 games in 2017, played all 16 games last season before missing 8 games this season.
Let’s take a look at a list of Watt’s injury history, highlighting the most important injuries:
2012: Torn elbow ligaments
If you’ve ever wondered why J.J. Watt plays with that huge brace on his arm, a 2012 elbow tear is the answer. Watt played all 16 games in 2012, racking up an NFL-high 20.5 sacks all while having torn ligaments in his elbow.
2013: The nose
“I hit people for a living” was Watt’s response to a torn up nose during the 2013 season. While not bad enough for Watt to miss any games, he joked he considered plastic surgery after cutting his nose open multiple times.
2015: Broken hand, Groin muscle tear
Watt again played a full season in 2015, but played a couple of games with a broken hand. After the seasons he had surgery to fix what was reported as a sports hernia. Watt denied it was a sports hernia, but still definitely suffered a muscle tear that needed surgery after the 2015 season.
2016: Back surgeries
Watt had back surgery in the offseason in 2016, played three games, then had to have season-ending back surgery.
2017: Broken leg
Watt played through a finger injury for much of the first five games of the season before breaking his leg in October against the Chiefs. Surgery to fix his tibial plateau fracture kept him out for 11 games. His injury was compared to a motorcycle accident.
2019: Torn pectoral
After a (relatively) healthy 2018 (Watt DID have to have offseason knee surgery), Watt started out playing well in 2019 before tearing his pectoral in week 8 against the Oakland Raiders. At the time, Watt was leading the NFL in quarterback pressures and still leads the Texans in that stat despite playing half the season. Watt’s surgery expected to keep him out for the season, but worked his way back and will play Saturday against the Bills.