HOUSTON — J.J. Watt will play in the Houston Texans’ season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Watt returned to practice Monday for the first time since back surgery in July and coach Bill O’Brien said after practice that he would play. Right tackle Derek Newton also was back at practice after sitting out since injuring his hamstring on the first day of training camp and will also play in the opener.
“It was good to have them back at practice today,” O’Brien said. “Both guys were in there working with their teammates. It’s always good to have your team as close to full strength as possible.”
Watt missed all of training camp and the Texans’ four preseason games after surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.
The Texans activated him from the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and the team announced that he passed his physical on Sunday.
Watt, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in three of the past four seasons, hasn’t missed a game in his five-year career. The defensive end also sat out the entire preseason in 2012 because of an elbow injury and returned for the season opener.
The Texans practiced in full pads on Monday. O’Brien didn’t provide many details on what he saw from Watt and Newton, but did say that they were “working well.” He said there are a few things he’ll be looking for from them in practice this week.
“I think with anybody that comes off of being out for a while, the first thing you want to look at is their level of conditioning,” he said. “Where are they at as it relates to their own conditioning, their own ability to stay in there and sustain plays throughout a drive. I think that’s the big thing. Then, from there, it’s just about how are they reacting to whatever their injury was, how is that playing out in practice?”
Left tackle Duane Brown, who was also activated from the PUP list on Saturday, did not practice Monday and won’t play this weekend. Brown, who had quadriceps surgery in January, is feeling better and hopes he won’t be out too much longer.
“It’s like night and day,” he said of the progress he has made in the last month. “Keeping the swelling under control, being able to go out there and just have consecutive days of hard work has been great. So I’m just trying to keep that going and I think I’ll be out there pretty soon.”