J.J. Watt, three-time NFL defensive player of the year and long-time Houston Texan, told Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, “If you ever do call, I’ll be there” when asked about a potential return to professional football.

Watt, 35, retired in 2022 with the Arizona Cardinals after a 12.5 sack season. Before that, he spent ten years with the Texans, who had just won the AFC South division title in the first year of Ryans’ time as head coach. Since then, they’ve acquired former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, former Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon and several others in an increasingly dangerous offense led by a promising talent in rising sophomore quarterback C.J. Stroud.

“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,” Watt said on Houston SportsRadio 610 when asked how he resists the allure of retiring to play for the Texans. “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.’ 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 that if he ever truly does need it, I’ll be there for him. I don’t anticipate that happening. They’ve got a very good group.”

While it doesn’t seem like Watt desperately wants to come out of retirement, he certainly seems willing to do so if Ryans and the Texans give the word. He did say, however, that 2024 will be the last year he is training his body to prepare for a potential return to football. If injuries were to deplete the Texans’ defensive line, that would raise more appropriate questions about Watt’s playing status.

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“I very much don’t want that to ever be the case,” Watt said of the Texans needing him because of injuries. “I hope everybody stays extremely healthy and they dominate and they don’t need any other bodies. And I just get to watch and enjoy from the couch.”

Texans general manager Nick Caserio appeared on the Pat McAfee Show last Thursday to express his openness about Watt’s potential homecoming.

“I have a lot of respect and appreciation for JJ,” Caserio said. “When I took the [GM] job in February of ’21, he was one of the first players I actually spoke to. Certainly respectful of JJ, his career, what he’s done for the organization. What he’s done for the city of Houston. I’m not going to speak for him about what he wants to do relative to playing football. I’ll let him disclose that on your show. … It’s very early. It’s May. The season doesn’t start until September, and then you look at players at the end of October or November. Case by case, so between him and [Tom] Brady, we’ll see who jumps back in first. … He [Watt] always has an open door both organizationally and in the city. He’s earned that, and he absolutely deserves it.”

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