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NFL AM: Watt Reportedly Played With Five Torn Core Muscles

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There’s no questioning the toughness of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

The 2015 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has played through various maladies during his five years in the NFL, including a broken hand suffered last December. But the other injury Watt was dealing with late last season, the one that finally forced him to the sidelines late in Houston’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in January, takes pain tolerance to a whole other level.

Watt had surgery this offseason to repair torn core muscles in his torso and groin areas, and ESPN’s Tania Ganguli reported on Thursday that over the course of the season he developed five different core muscle injuries. Among them were a partially torn right adductor longus, a fully torn left adductor longus and a fully torn left adductor pectineus as well as partial tears in his left and right abdominals.

The All-Pro defensive end also told Houston’s KILT-AM this week that he suffered a herniated disk in his back halfway through the season. Watt was listed on the injury report for Houston’s game against Tennessee on November 1 with a back injury.

He played through all of those injuries into the postseason, when he finally succumbed to five torn core muscles early in the third quarter of the game against the Chiefs. During that game, Watt wasn’t himself and early in the third quarter he was seen on the sidelines trying to stretch out his core and get going. However, when he returned to the field the star defensive end played just a few snaps before going down and having to be attended to on the field by the medical staff. He did not return at that point.

“Last year, was definitely by far the most strenuous on my body that I’ve ever had, fighting through a bunch of things that I’ve never dealt with before,” Watt said. “We had the broken hand. I had a herniated disk in my back halfway through the year. I had, obviously, everything that went on with my groins and I don’t think everyone fully understand what that process was like.”

Despite dealing with those injuries for much of the second half of the season, Watt was his normal dominant self for most of the year. He played in all 17 games, including the playoff contest, tallied a league-best 17.5 sacks and added 77 tackles, and at the end of the year claimed his third Defensive Player of the Year award in four years, along with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. It’s scary to think that Watt was doing all that at far less than 100 percent and after offseason mostly spent healing, he’s back in the gym, ready to turn it up again in 2016 and take Houston one step further than just another playoff berth.

“I’m doing pretty darn well,” Watt said. “I feel really good. I’m back to full-fledged training. Obviously, I’m working to get back to my 100 percent tip-top shape. I am back to my full workouts, I’m back to everything. So now it’s just building back to what I was and going above and beyond that, which I will be at by the first game of the season.”

Above and beyond what he’s done before? The rest of the league shudders at the thought.

KUECHLY COMING ALONG WELL

Another of the league’s top players on defense has also spent the offseason recovering from a serious injury, but he too expects to be ready when the season rolls around in a few months.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during Carolina’s Week 17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played the entire postseason with the injury before undergoing surgery to repair it in February. Now six weeks removed from the procedure, Kuechly said he’s on track to be ready for the season opener. He’s already out of the sling that the surgery had him in for four weeks, and he’s now working hard in rehab to get back to 100 percent.

“I just have to continue to get it stronger and get the range of motion back,” he said. “I’m feeling better and it just takes time. It’s a process and [the Panthers trainers] do a great job. We’re on schedule.”

The only man besides Watt to win Defensive Player of the Year honors since 2012, Kuechly — the 2013 recipient of the award — was one of the favorites to unseat the Texans defensive end again last year after putting together another phenomenal campaign. Despite missing three of the first four games of the season with a concussion, Kuechly starred in 2015, tallying 118 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 10 passes defensed and he pulled in a career-high four interceptions.

Despite dealing with that torn labrum, he continued his outstanding play in the postseason, pulling in two more interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns as the Panthers marched on to the Super Bowl. Of course, coming up short in the biggest game of the year left Carolina with some unfinished business in 2016 and a healthy Kuechly is hopeful to make another big impact.

“It was a fun season,” Kuechly said. “Winning 17 games is a big deal. It was special…but you move forward.”

LEAGUE MOURNS DEATH OF AGENT EUGENE PARKER

The NFL is mourning the passing of a pioneer on the business side of the sport on Friday after it was announced that agent Eugene Parker had died late Thursday after a short battle with kidney cancer.

The 60-year-old Parker was one of the league’s most prominent representatives and his client list included Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Curtis Martin and Rod Woodson. At the time of his death he was working for Relativity Sports, where he represented dozens of players including Larry Fitzgerald, Alshon Jeffrey, Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins.

“The family of Eugene Parker is deeply saddened to report the loss of their beloved husband and father,” Parker’s family said in a statement. “Eugene passed away on March 31, 2016 after a brief and heroic battle with cancer.”

Parker was just diagnosed with the disease in November, and continued to conduct business as best he could while fighting through it, he and his team at Relativity Sports represent a slew of 2016 draft prospects, including Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence.

Through his career, Parker gained the respect and admiration of his clients and his peers, becoming the most prominent African-American agent in the sport. Following the announcement of his death, an outpouring of support came from those who knew him on social media.

 

Parker is survived by a wife, June, and five children, and his legacy in the league will live on long after he’s gone.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys