J.J. Watt: I'd return to play if Texans 'absolutely need it'

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Monday, May 6, 2024

J.J. Watt is keeping the door slightly ajar on a possible NFL return if the Houston Texans need him, but this is the final year he'll say that.

Watt, who retired after the 2022 season, made his comments Saturday as he hosted his annual charity softball game in Houston.

"I'm a very fortunate, lucky man, I have a beautiful wife, I have a beautiful son. I've had 12 great years in this league and I'm very thankful to have walked away healthy and playing great," he told reporters. "I told DeMeco [Ryans] last year: 'Don't call unless you absolutely need it, but, if you ever do call, I'll be there.' And he knows not to call unless he absolutely needs it. This is the last year I'll tell him that, because I'm not going to keep training [the way] I've been training."

Watt, 35, and Ryans played together for the Texans in 2011, which was Watt's first NFL season and Ryans' last with the Texans. Ryans was hired as the Texans' coach last year and led Houston (10-7) to the AFC South division title and a wild-card victory over the Cleveland Browns.

"He knows he ever truly does need it, I'll be there for him," Watt said. "But I don't anticipate that happening, because they have a very good crew. I hope that everybody stays extremely healthy, and they dominate, and they don't need any bodies, and I just get to watch and enjoy it from the couch."

Ryans was asked about Watt's comments on Monday from the Texans' charity golf classic.

"I love to hear J.J. saying he's ready, I've got his number ready to go just in case we need him," Ryans told reporters.

Asked in what circumstances he would make that call to Watt, Ryans said with a laugh, "I need him now, I need to make that call right now. Anytime J.J. Watt's ready to go, I'm ready to go."

The Texans reinforced their pass-rushing group this offseason by signing Danielle Hunter(16.5 sacks in 2023) and Denico Autry(11.5 sacks in '23). They also have Will Anderson Jr., the third overall pick in last year's draft who had seven sacks in his rookie season.

Watt won a Defensive Rookie of the Year award and three Defensive Player of the Year awards in 10 seasons with the Texans. He finished his career with 114.5 sacks.

Watt is an NFL analyst for CBS Sports. He and his wife, Kealia, also became minority owners of English soccer club Burnley FC last year.

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