Let’s just make this clear right at the outset: everybody in the NFL plays through pain. That said, not everybody plays through that pain well enough to be considered the best at what they do, making what J.J. Watt endured last year all the more impressive.
Watt, you may recall, won his second straight AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and the third of his career, in both cases accomplishing what only Lawrence Taylor had done before. On Thursday, we discovered more about how many injuries Watt had to shrug off en route to a league leading 17.5 sacks last season.
According to Tania Ganguli of ESPN, the Houston Texans’ defensive end finished the season, in which he missed no games, with five core muscles that were either fully or partially torn, necessitating surgery on both sides of his body. Citing a source, Ganguli wrote that those injuries included “a partially torn right adductor longus, a fully torn left adductor longus and a fully torn left adductor pectineus in his inner thighs and groin,” in addition to partial tears in Watt’s abdominal muscles.
That sounds painful enough, but it was far from all that Watt gutted through. Here’s what he had to say Wednesday to Sports Radio 610 in Houston:
“Last year was definitely, by far, the most strenuous on my body that I’ve ever had, fighting through a whole bunch of things that I’ve never dealt with before.
“We had the broken hand. I had a herniated disc in my back halfway through the year. I had, obviously, everything that went on with my groins and I don’t think people fully understand what that process was like.”
Again, every NFL player gets beaten up to some degree or another, but Watt clearly had to push through more than the usual amount of pain last season. The broken hand forced him to wear a cast for three games, and only now do we learn of the herniated disc which, as anyone who has endured that type of problem knows, can be incredibly uncomfortable, to say the least.
The good news, apart from the fact that all those injuries failed to stop Watt from obliterating opposing offensive lines, is that he’s feeling much better these days. “I’m doing pretty darn well,” Watt told Sports Radio 610, adding, “I’m back to full-fledged training.”
Some readers are probably rolling their eyes at all this, viewing it as just more of the J.J. Watt Self-Aggrandizement Machine. It doesn’t help that he has a tendency to post tweets such as the one below.
However, playing through five torn core muscles is nothing to sneeze at. And when you have a herniated disk, you definitely don’t want to sneeze, let alone suit up for an NFL game.
What certainly can’t be argued is that Watt is one of the greatest defensive players of his, or any other, generation. One shudders to think of the havoc he might wreak this season if he manages to stay healthy.