Jan 8, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) waves after being removed from the game during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL season marked J.J. Watt’s first not playing in the league since he was drafted by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

But while Watt is seemingly enjoying retirement and his role as a part-time analyst for CBS Sports, the 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making a comeback just yet.

In particular, Watt was asked about the possibility of rejoining the Houston Texans, with whom he spent the first 10 seasons of his 12-year NFL career with. The Texans have enjoyed a resurgence under his former teammate, DeMeco Ryans, prompting the 7-time All-Pro selection to keep the door open for a potential return to the playing field.

“I told DeMeco last year, I said, ‘don’t call unless you absolutely need it. But if you ever do call I’ll be there,'” Watt told reporters at his charity softball game on Saturday. “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. But he knows he ever truly does need it, I’ll be there for him. But I don’t anticipate that happening. They have a very good crew.”

To Watt’s point, the Texans suddenly find themselves with one of the NFL’s most talented young rosters, headlined by an offensive attack featuring quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell. On the defensive side of the ball, Houston certainly has plenty to build around as well, including second-year pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr., cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and linebacker Christian Harris.

Still, you can never have too many pass-rushers and Watt just happens to have been one of the best to ever do it. Time will tell if Ryans will need to make that call to his former Texans teammate, but if he does, Watt will be ready.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.