Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt opened up about what led to his retirement decision while speaking with the media on Wednesday.
The Cardinals defensive end shocked the NFL world on Tuesday when he posted on social media saying he was retiring after 12 seasons in the league. Even coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted he didn’t learn about the decision until everyone else did.
But, for Watt, the decision wasn’t that tough.
“I’ve known for a little while. It’s the right time,” Watt said, via NFL.com. “It feels like the right time. I’ve put so much into the game and the wins and the losses, the mental stress and passion that comes with it, it just weighs on you. It’s heavy. I mean it’s really heavy.”
Watt has had a tumultuous year on and off the field. The Cardinals are 4–11 after Week 16 and already have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Off the field, Watt and his wife, NWSL star Kealia Ohai Watt, had their first child back in October. Before that, the defensive end underwent treatment for a heart condition and had his heart shocked back into rhythm.
“The losses are very tough to take,” Watt said. “You live with the highs and the lows, and I’ve always said that I’d way rather live with the highs and the lows than never know in the middle. I’ve got a son now. Obviously, I had a heart scare in the middle of the year, so there’s certainly some of that that played into it. But I’m very happy and am very at peace with it.”
Regarding the question of why Watt would leave when he’s only 33 years old and isn’t playing poorly, Watt admitted that he wanted to leave while he would still be remembered for being a rock star on the field.
“I’d much rather go out playing good football knowing that I could still play and knowing that hopefully people remember me playing good football than to go limping out, being forced out, and knowing that I probably should’ve done it earlier,” Watt said.
His final two games this season will be against the Falcons this weekend and the 49ers in Week 18.