The Houston Texans’ purge has impacted one of the faces of the franchise, as they have parted ways with defensive end J.J. Watt.
Throughout the 2020 season, Watt appeared to become disgruntled with the direction of the franchise and was critical of the team’s effort in a Week 14 loss to the Bears.
“I wanted to do this on video, as opposed to putting out a statement or doing a press conference or anything like that, because I want you guys to hear it directly from me. I want to speak directly to you and the city of Houston, so you can hear the words straight from my mouth. I have sat down with the McNair family, and I have asked them for my release. And we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” Watt said in a video he posted on Twitter.
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me... pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
“I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who’d never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me — besides draft night. I mean, you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family. Since that day, I have tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect, and try and make you proud, on and off the field.”
“Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.’s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise’s history,” said Texans CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. ”I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon.’”
Houston drafted Watt 11th overall in 2011, and he blossomed into a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014, 2015). But injuries limited him to eight games in 2016 and 2017, before he made his fifth All-Pro team in 2018. Watt missed half of last season and managed five sacks in 16 games this past year.
“You guys have given me everything and more, and I can only hope that you feel like I’ve given you everything I have,” Watt said in the video. ”The city of Houston’s been unbelievable to me. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where I’ve met lifelong friends in my teammates. I’ve had incredible coaches and training staff and equipment staff and cafeteria workers, the weight room staff, the front office people. People on the streets, people in restaurants, in grocery stores. Showing up at my house. The connection is special, and I will never, ever take that for granted, because I know how rare it is.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Watt led a fundraising effort that eclipsed $30 million. His wife, Kealia Ohai, is a professional soccer player with the Chicago Red Stars and previously played for the Houston Dash.
“I’m excited and looking forward to a new opportunity, and I’ve been working extremely hard,” Watt, 31, said. ”But at the same time, it is always tough to move on. I just want you guys to know that I love you, I appreciate you. I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me, giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. Thank you, Houston. I love you.”
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