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J.J. Watt: Decision on preseason about safety, but sees 'flip side'

With the opening of training camps set for July 28 and quickly approaching, there is no resolution as to whether preseason games will be played.

Houston Texans veteran standout J.J. Watt believes that ultimately a decision on playing in the preseason should depend upon the advice of doctors, but said Wednesday evening on NFL Total Access that he sees both sides of the argument to keep or cancel preseason contests.

Watt's stance on doing away with the games is based on the safety of all players involved, but if the preseason is done away with, he wonders about the negative effect it will have on players who are on the bubble of making rosters and will not have the usual opportunities in exhibitions to showcase their skills.

"I think, with that, we're going to be going off the doctors. If they think it's better for us to not have games, if they think it's more beneficial for us as players to be practicing and strength and conditioning to get ourselves ready for Week 1, then I'm all for that," Watt told NFL Network's Willie McGinest. "When I look at the flip side of that coin, the thing I think about is undrafted free agents. I think about guys who are making the team in that fourth preseason game. I think about guys who made their break in preseason games and literally changed their life, because they had that opportunity. So I feel for guys that may miss out on that opportunity to change their life if they miss out on preseason games. But at the same time, you have to weigh the health-and-safety aspects, whether that's traveling to another city to play a game, whether that's the actual effects of playing the game, so that's kinda what we're weighing right now as players, is you have guys that you know really, really need those games and thrive on those games and then you also have the health-and-safety aspect of everybody in the league we want to make sure we protect."

With five All-Pro selections among a cavalcade of accolades, Watt is a nine-season veteran who was selected in the first round. Thus, even as a rookie in 2011, making the squad was never a chief concern for the all-star. However, as he points to, it is for many rookies and the loss of the usual preseason games will alter the usual ways of building a roster.

It's also within the realm of preparing for the upcoming season. For Watt, preparation despite changes to everyday life due to COVID-19 mandated restrictions across the United States have not hindered him all that much. He realizes it's different for others who do not have the same luxuries as him and points out the concerns for all players developing a readiness for the season ahead.

"This year, everybody's in different situations," Watt said. "I'm fortunate. I have a gym to work out in, I have a field to run on, so I'm able to do full training. But some guys live in a one-bedroom apartment, where the apartment complex's gym is closed, they don't have a field to run on. So every guy is in a different situation this year and that is by far the hardest thing to figure out when talking about a ramp-up to the season is how do you make sure everybody's ready to go for the first game depending on what their situation was since guys were in all different situations coming in." 

Initially, the NFL was hopeful of cutting the standard four-game preseason schedule to two, but the NFL Players Association voted that down. An impasse currently remains.

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