Houston is officially designating defensive end J.J. Watt to return from injured reserve Tuesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported, per sources informed of the roster decision.
Watt told reporters he will integrate himself into practice Tuesday and plans to steadily ramp up his activity in preparation for next week's playoff opener.
"There's obviously an element of risk involved as well that I understand and we understand," he said. "But to me the opportunity to play in the playoffs, the opportunity to try and help this team win football games, it's just, there's nothing that I want more and there's nothing that, it's built into me, I want to be on the field with the guys, and I feel really good. I've worked extremely hard at rehab, we've had a very smooth process and everything's been going extremely well."
Watt suffered a torn pectoral in Houston's Week 8 win over the Oakland Raiders, underwent surgery and has missed the remainder of the team's season. A return didn't seem possible, playoffs or not, at the time of the injury thanks to a projected recovery timetable of about four months, but fantastic response to and progress made in rehab has him on track to be able to contribute before this campaign ends.
"When I got hurt I just assumed I was done, I didn't even know there was a possibility," Watt said. "And then literally a couple days after the surgery I was feeling so good that I just started asking questions. I said, is it remotely possible? And we left the door open for a possibility and from there it was just literally day by day, just work, doing whatever I could do, and we arrived to here. I wouldn't call it a difficult decision, no. I get a chance to play in the playoffs with my team and go out here and try to help us win football games. To me, that'll never be a difficult decision."
Watt has battled significant injuries in three of his last four seasons, appearing in just 32 of a possible 63 games in that span. That total will reach 64 this weekend, but could stop there if he's able to return and get ready in time for Houston's Wild Card Weekend affair with one of the last two seeds in the conference.
"This one is obviously a bit different than some of my other (injuries)," Watt said. "You have the back and you have the leg, which are two massive, massive things that really affect movement. The nice thing about this surgery was that this whole time I've been able to run, I've been able to work out my legs, I've been able to do agility drills, positional drills, so that has been a huge help. Both mentally and physically for this recovery. So I'm really excited about what I'm going to be able to do."
His addition cannot be overstated. On the season, Houston ranks 15th in quarterback pressure percentage at 26.6 percent, per Next Gen Stats, but surprisingly saw that mark increase in the weeks following Watt's exit. Regardless, any team will benefit from the return of a five-time All-Pro.