“I’ve known that for a while. It is the right time.

JJ Watt announced on Tuesday that he would be retiring in a few weeks.

He said Wednesday that he was scheduled for that conclusion.

“I’ve known that for a little while. It’s the right time,” Watt said in his first conversation with reporters since announcing he was hanging up. “It’s the right time. I’ve invested so much in the game and the wins and losses, the mental stress and the passion that comes with it, it weighs on you. It’s heavy, I mean it’s really heavy.

“Loss is very hard to take. You live with ups and downs, and I’ve always said I’d rather live with ups and downs than never know the middle. I have a son now. Obviously I had a jitters in the middle of the year, so there’s definitely some of that played in. But I’m very happy and I’m very at peace with it.

Watt has many good reasons to step away from football, but none have to do with performance. At 33, he has 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, six passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this season. He did so after returning from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2021; not easy for a player who relies on power and who is approaching 35 years old.

It was realistic to expect Watt to return in 2023 and play at a similar level. He has shown few signs of slowing down apart from injuries sustained in every odd year since 2017.

But Watt knows how he wants to be remembered, and it’s certainly not as a failed former star.

“I would much rather play good football knowing that I can still play and knowing that I hope people remember me playing good football than limping and being sent off and knowing that I probably should have done it sooner,” he said.

Watt was previously captured on camera by NFL Films apologizing to former Texans teammate Deshaun Watson at the end of a forgotten 2020 season, telling him ” I’m sorry. We wasted one of your years. What Watt might not have realized yet was that this was also a loss of one of his final seasons.

It’s always been easy to pinpoint what motivates Watt to keep playing, even after suffering a herniated disc, tibial plateau fracture, chest tear and a number of other pretty serious injuries throughout his career. . When it came time to choose his new home in the NFL, Watt unsurprisingly followed his desire to win a championship, joining a Cardinals team that was built and expected to win.

Instead, all he got was an appearance on Super Wild Card Weekend last season.

“It’s extremely difficult. It’s definitely something I’ve struggled with trying to put my career into perspective,” Watt said. “Because there’s definitely a big part of me that’s going to be sad and disappointed and frustrated that I’ll never be able to win a championship. It was heavy for me for a very long time, but then I was also given perspective at the point of saying, look think about what you accomplished if you were a kid and if you would be proud of it and grateful for it.

“That’s why I say I’m leaving with nothing but love and gratitude. Did I win a championship? No. But I literally lived a dream that millions of people would kill. I have a job that everyone would love. I literally do things that I never thought I could do in my wildest dreams. I may not have a trophy, but I’m fine and I am extremely grateful.

He is certainly doing very well. Watt became a father in October when he and his wife, Kealia Ohai Watt, welcomed their son, Koa, into the world. The family brought Koa to his first NFL game last weekend, which also happened to be Watt’s last home game as a professional.

Watt also had a health scare during the season which may have given him vital perspective. Watt ended up in hospital just weeks before his son was born due to a bout of atrial fibrillation that required doctors to get his heart back on track. He ended up playing that week, recording three tackles in a 26-16 win over Carolina.

With a new family at home, Watt realized it was time to focus on them, not football.

“I’ve added some amazing new pieces to my life with my wife and son that definitely take a lot of focus and energy,” Watt said. “But the wins and losses each week and the energy and strength that I put into each week and the preparation has never changed. I think that’s honestly part of the reason why it’s time to go. because I don’t. I want all my energy to be there more.

“I’m ready to not put all my energy into it. I’m ready to see my son grow up. I’m ready to spend more time with my wife. I’m ready for a new challenge, whatever that new challenge is. I can’t wait to see what else is out there.

Watt will be leaving the NFL in a few weeks with a career he can be very proud of. This will undoubtedly lead him to a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where Kealia and Koa can smile with pride as Watt’s football journey comes to a triumphant end in Canton.

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