JJ Watt said he appreciated the Cardinals win a little more after a scary and emotional week that saw the defensive star endure a heart scare.
Watt took the field Sunday afternoon just three days after having his ‘heart shocked back into rhythm’ after going into Atrial fibrillation.
Watt made the shocking admission at roughly midday ET on Sunday, and was on the field hours later for the Cardinals as they took on the Panthers, securing a 26-16 win.
Speaking after the game, Watt was visibly upset and was in tears as he revealed the win was a nice end to an emotional week for him and his family.
‘Obviously, it’s been a very emotional week for my family, for my wife, for myself,’ Watt said.
‘So, I’m very happy to get a win today. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of emotions, but I’ve learned to appreciate the little things even more and so it’s nice to have a win today.’
According to the CDC, Atrial fibrillation – commonly called ‘A-Fib’ or AF – is ‘when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way’.
It occurs due to the blood not flowing as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart, and it can occur as a one-off episode or as a permanent condition. It is currently unclear whether Watt’s situation is the former or latter.
Watt said he considered not playing Sunday against the Panthers but after talking with cardiologists and electrophysiologists, he was told and assured multiple times that it was safe for him to play.
‘It’s tough,’ he said. ‘My wife was by my side all the time. So, that helped a lot, and then, just, I didn’t know what else to do. I have been playing this game my whole life. They said I was fine. So, once my heart was reset, they said, ‘You’re fine. If you feel comfortable.’
‘I’d probably be more uncomfortable sitting on my couch at home. You know, this is what I know. Right or wrong. Maybe that’s messed up, but if I was sitting at home watching the boys play and knowing that they said I was perfectly fine to play, I would have felt weird, so, I just did what I know.’
He took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to break the news, claiming that he was only sharing the health update because it had been leaked to the media.
He revealed the leak was especially upsetting as it had to have come from someone he ‘should trust’ and insisted he was irritated as he didn’t want it to take away from his team’s performance.
‘The only people that knew were people I should trust,’ Watt said. ‘And, so, injuries, I don’t care. If you leak injuries, whatever, that’s football. But this one was very emotional for me so it upset me.’
He added: ‘Boys played good today. I don’t want to take away from them. A great game, the boys played a great game. [I’m] grateful to be out there with them. That’s partly the reason why I’m upset that it leaked because I didn’t want to take away from them.’
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury revealed didn’t know what atrial fibrillation was until he was told about Watt’s condition but said Sunday that tight ends coach Steve Heiden had it a couple times and explained it.
‘Just a scary deal for everybody,’ Kingsbury said. ‘But I’m glad it got figured out. He seems better than ever.’
‘Shows you what type of person and competitor, human being he is,’ Kingsbury said. ‘He’s special and we were all obviously worried when he wasn’t around for a couple of days getting the tests run and handling that but I think it was definitely inspiring for all of us and he played at a really high level and he just continues to amaze, the type of person and player he is.’
The former Houston Texans star missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday for what the Cardinals reported as ‘calf/illness’ on their injury report.
The NFL star has consistently struggled with injuries over the last few years of his career, missing 10 games of the 2021 season with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
In 2019 he missed eight games with a torn pectoral, and in 2017 he fractured his tibia and had to sit out the final 11 games of the season.
This heart issue is seemingly not something Watt wants to keep him sidelined, despite fans and fellow players appearing concerned in reply to his Sunday tweet.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote: ‘Life is bigger than football. Glad you are OK,’ while one fan commented: ‘You’re a young man who’s already made enough money to support your children’s children and you’re going to play 5 days after essentially having a heart attack? What’s the matter with you guys? This toxic masculinity is shameful.’
Watt’s injury comes at a time when the NFL is under heavy scrutiny for allowing players to continue despite problems, after Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailova was allowed to play on Thursday night.
The quarterback suffered a heavy hit to his head the previous Sunday but passed concussion checks to return four days later, only to suffer another serious blow, resulting in him being taken off on a stretcher.
In the wake of that incident, the NFLPA fired the medic who cleared Tagovailova to play in the second game.