Tex­ans star Watt placed on IR

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken

HOUS­TON >> J.J. Watt is out un­til at least De­cem­ber and could miss the rest of the sea­son with an in­jured back, leav­ing the Tex­ans search­ing for ways to deal with the loss of the NFL’s best de­fen­sive player.

Watt was placed on in­jured re­serve on Wed­nes­day, which means he’ll be out for a min­i­mum of eight weeks.

“You can never re­place the best player in the NFL,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “When some­one like that goes down, it’s a tough thing ob­vi­ously, but at the same time ... this is a team.

“A team made up of some re­ally good vet­eran lead­ers, some re­ally good young play­ers. We’re look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenges that are ahead.”

O’Brien said Watt had re-in­jured his back and putting him on IR was the best thing for his longterm health.

“It’s flared up to the point where he can’t con­tinue to play right now,” O’Brien said. “Go­ing on IR will give J.J. all the time he needs to make sure that he’s 100 per­cent healthy and back to be­ing him­self.”

The team was still ex­plor­ing the in­jury and it’s un­clear if it will re­quire surgery.

Watt, who has won the De­fen­sive Player of the Year for the past two sea­sons, missed train­ing camp and Hous­ton’s four pre­sea­son games af­ter surgery in July to re­pair a her­ni­ated disk in his back. The de­fen­sive end started each of the team’s three reg­u­lar-sea­son games and got hurt again Thurs­day against the Pa­tri­ots.

Some have won­dered if Watt’s lat­est set­back came be­cause he re­turned too quickly from surgery in July. O’Brien dis­missed that sug­ges­tion.

“J.J. did ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing he could do to get back on the field af­ter surgery this sum­mer,” he said. “He fol­lowed his doc­tor’s or­ders, he played it smart. He passed ev­ery test be­fore be­ing cleared to play.”

Watt is the lat­est star player to suf­fer a sig­nif­i­cant in­jury this sea­son af­ter Dal­las quar­ter­back Tony Romo, Min­nesota run­ning back Adrian Peter­son and Cleve­land Browns quar­ter­back Robert Griffin III have all been placed on in­jured re­serve in re­cent weeks.

Watt tweeted a state­ment that did not pro­vide de­tails on his in­jury.

“This won’t be fun, but it is nec­es­sary in or­der for me to re­turn to 100 per­cent and play at the level that I am ca­pa­ble of play­ing at,” the post said. “Ev­ery­body deals with ad­ver­sity in their lives, many much worse than what I’m go­ing through. I have great peo­ple around me and I ap­pre­ci­ate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you.

“I am look­ing for­ward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my broth­ers to play the game that I love.”

It’s a ma­jor set­back for Hous­ton, which se­lected Watt with the 11th over­all pick in the 2011 draft. Watt has played 83 con­sec­u­tive games for the Tex­ans de­spite var­i­ous in­juries, in­clud­ing torn core mus­cles and a bro­ken hand last sea­son.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Romeo Cren­nel wouldn’t say who would start in his place on Sun­day against the Titans, but ac­knowl­edged that ev­ery­one on de­fense will need to pitch in.

“When you have that kind of abil­ity and that kind of play­mak­ing it’s hard to re­place with one guy,” Cren­nel said.

“So we’re go­ing to ask all the guys on de­fense to pick it up, to put a lit­tle ex­tra in it and see if we can gain some of those plays that J.J. used to make.”

Though the coach­ing staff isn’t point­ing at one player to make up for the loss of Watt, the Tex­ans could cer­tainly use a big sea­son from Jade­veon Clowney .

The top over­all pick in the 2014 draft has started to show progress this sea­son af­ter fail­ing to make much of an im­pact in his first two in­jury-filled sea­sons.

With Watt rel­e­gated to the side­line, he knows that peo­ple will be look­ing to him to show the tal­ent that made him a No. 1 pick.

“Other guys ... in­clud­ing my­self got to step up and try to re­place him,” Clowney said. “So I’m look­ing for­ward to big things out of the front and the other guys around to pick it up for him.”

ERIC CHRISTIAN SMITH — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hous­ton Tex­ans de­fen­sive end J.J. Watt re-in­jured his back and is out un­til at least De­cem­ber, and pos­si­bly the en­tire sea­son.

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