“There comes a time when all good things come to an end.”
That’s what happened between JJ Watt and the Houston Texans this off-season, and while those weren’t Watt’s words, he admits they are true.
Watt and the Cardinals (6-0) will face the Texans (1-5) at State Farm Stadium on Sunday. It will be the veteran defensive player’s first encounter with his former team since requesting and receiving his release from the franchise in February. He sees it as a bittersweet moment, not some kind of repayment.
“There’s obviously a little more to it than that,” said Watt, and quickly added: “I don’t think people think that way because you look at the squad and look at the guys who are there, it has changed so massively. ” Additionally, there are only a handful of guys from last year that I have played with.
“It’s not the same team, not the same organization that I remember and of which I was part.”
The truth is that Texans are a shell of their former selves. Houston, an expanding franchise from 2002, became a contender when Watt was 11th in 2011. Watt would win three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and five All-Pro and five Pro Bowl selections for the first Win team.
However, things began to go south under Bill O’Brien, the team’s former head coach and general manager. The players became disaffected and wanted out. Star players like current Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were eventually traded without their consent. Others, like angry quarterback Deshaun Watson, demanded action. Watson’s request is expected to finally be eased soon, with the dolphins, panthers and eagles as potential landing targets.
Meanwhile, Watt was able to sit down warmly with management and orchestrate his own exit, which made him a free agent and could sign anywhere he wanted.
“I signed here because I saw great potential on the team, what it was like, and after I signed we kept adding people like AJ Green, like Rodney Hudson,” said Watt. “Now the owner is taking steps for guys like Zach Ertz. This organization has shown that it is ready to do whatever it takes to fight for a championship, and that is why I am here.
“I love being here. I love the atmosphere on this team. I love the way everyone works, the business-like mindset where you just come in, go about your business, can’t make excuses, don’t complain, just work and win. I think that’s one of the main reasons for our success. Of course there is already a huge amount of talent that we have brought in, but I think it’s more the attitude and the culture that has been built here. “
It used to be in Houston, where Watt quickly became a legend and a hero to the people, not just because of his heroics on the soccer field, but also because of his myriad of charitable work across the city and across the state, including some 37 million US dollars to raise relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
But just like Green, who spent 9 seasons in Cincinnati as the face of the Bengals before coming to Arizona, it was time for Watt to move on as a man in Houston after 10 years with the Texans.
“I love the organization of the Cincinnati Bengals. I became AJ Green there, ”said Green. “That will never be taken away from me. … But there comes a time when all good things come to an end – on both sides. I’m going where they can get younger, and for me I’m going where I can have a change of scenery and revive my career in another place. “
That’s exactly what they’re both doing in Arizona on the hottest team in the NFL. Although Watt only registered his first official expulsion of the season with the Browns’ 37:14 win last Sunday, he dominated both on the field and behind the scenes as a leader and inspirational motivator.
“He’s getting better and better every week,” said Vance Joseph, Cardinals defensive coordinator, noting Watts’ disruption with nine quarterback hits, four tackles for the loss, two tipped passes and a forced fumble.
Watt agrees with Green’s philosophy that all good things have to end at some point, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t cherish his memories and moments in Houston.
“Yes, there are memories, there is history, there is so much,” he said. “There are relationships, there is everything that has been built there, and there is so much love and respect for the city and the fans and for everyone who was involved in creating the memories that happened there.
“But at the same time sometimes things happen and a new opportunity has to arise and I am very grateful and happy where I am right now.”
Watt, 32, met his wife, US Olympic and professional soccer player Kealia Ohai, in Houston. He built thousands of friendships there with families, small businesses, local leaders, and fans. It was all thanks to the success he had with the Texans during his tenure.
“I was there for the best moments the organization ever had and did things the place had never done before,” he said. “I know how amazing the fan base is so it hurts to see where it is now because I believe these fans deserve to see these high times and these great moments.
“It hurts to know that it is not you and to know that you are in trouble. I hope they go back there sometime and I hope they do because I know firsthand that it’s an amazing place to play when you roll. “
The Cardinals couldn’t roll much higher than they currently are, although Watt says they haven’t played their best football yet. Considering he’s only signed for two years and others like Green, Ertz and Pass-Rusher Chandler Jones will meet the Free Agency in 2022, he doesn’t want GM Steve Keim to find a way to make the group for you multi-year run for the championship?
“I only care about a year and a week, that’s it,” said Watt. “I really have the feeling that this team feels that way. That is why we are where we are. “
Where Watt ends up – outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, of course – is unclear. He and his wife own homes in their home in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Houston and the Valley. They also have a place in Chicago where Kealia plays for the Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League. And they have family in Utah, which is where Kealia is from.
“Wherever our feet are, that’s where our home is,” says Watt. “We are fine.”
As for all the team swag and gear he’s amassed from the Texans over the years, what did Watt decide to get himself and his family together in Cardinals’ red?
“It’s been 10 years of my life,” said Watt. “It’s not like I threw all of my Houston things away. In 10 years I have probably collected thousands of items of clothing. However, I believe half of Pewaukee, Wisconsin is clad in team editions of Houston Texans. Everyone has a little bit of it. “
Watts Houston Chronicle
Superlatives from JJ Watts’ 10 years with the Houston Texans:
– Five-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections for the first team.
—Triple NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
—2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
– In 128 career games he registered 531 tackles, 172 tackles for loss, 101 sacks, 282 quarterback hits, 25 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and 61 defended passes.
—Leaded the NFL in Sacks at 20½ in 2012 and 17½ in 2015, and finished second with 20½ in 2014 and 16.0 in 2018.
—His 31 career multi-sack games are among the most active players.
– Has at least 41 different quarterbacks, a list of 20 Pro Bowl performers, six first-team all-pros, five NFL MVPs, six Heisman Trophy winners, and seven Super Bowl winners.
– Played a total of 1,016 snaps in 2020, topping all defensive linemen in the NFL. He played 1,000 or more snapshots six times in a season.
– Became only the fourth player in NFL history to post at least 100 sacks in their first 120 games, alongside Reggie White, Bruce Smith and DeMarcus Ware.
– His six AFC Defensive Player of the Month awards are the most shared by any defensive player (Smith) in NFL history, while his seven AFC Defensive Player of the Week awards are shared among all active players in the league (Aaron Donald).
– Got seven career touchdowns: three receiving TDs, three interception returns for a score, and a fumble recovery.
Do you have any thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach out to McManaman at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Hear it live every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 a.m. on Fox Sports 910-AM on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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