DeMeco Ryans on potential J.J. Watt return: ‘I’ve got his number ready to go’

Houston Texans legend J.J. Watt said hours before his annual charity softball game on Saturday that he’d be willing to return to the gridiron if current coach and former teammate DeMeco Ryans “absolutely needs it.” 

Right now, Ryans seems content with his current set of pass rushers, but he doesn’t plan on losing Watt’s number anytime soon. 

“I love to hear J.J. saying he’s ready,” Ryans said on Monday before the Texans’ annual golf tournament. “I’ve got his number ready to go just in case we need him. 

“I may need to make that call, so I’m happy that it’s open from him.”

Watt, 35, spent a decade in Houston after being selected 11th overall in the 2011 NFL draft. He’d win three Defensive Player of the Year awards while setting the franchise record in sacks (101) before being released following the 2020 season. 

Watt and Ryans were teammates for the 2011 season before the latter was traded to the Eagles. In a sense, it was a passing of the torch moment since Ryans had been the face of Houston’s defense since his rookie season in 2006. 

The two remained close despite being on opposing teams. Ryans was present for Watt’s final game with the Cardinals in 2022 before being hired back to Houston the following offseason. 

“He knows he ever truly does need it, I’ll be there for him,” Watt said of Ryans before the game Saturday in Sugar Land. “But I don’t anticipate that happening, because they have a very good crew. I hope that everybody stays extremely healthy, and they dominate, and they don’t need any bodies, and I just get to watch and enjoy it from the couch.”

Ryans was asked what would factor into the decision Watt for a reunion. The coach aptly avoided going into details of how a deal could come into place. 

“I need to make that call right now,” Ryans said. “Anytime J.J. Watt’s ready to go, I’m ready to go.”

Despite the departure of sack leader Jonathan Greenard, Houston remains in good standing at defensive end. Reining Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. is looking to build off a dominant first season in which he broke Watt’s rookie record with seven sacks. 

The Texans also reinforced their pass-rushing department with the additions of Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry. Hunter, a native of Katy who inked a two-year deal, finished top-five in sacks last season with 16.5 and led the league in tackles for loss with 23.5. 

Autry, a veteran defensive lineman with experience both at defensive tackle and edge rusher, totaled 11.5 sacks in his final season with the Titans. 

Houston also brought back No. 3 edge rusher Derek Barnett and signed veteran Mario Edwards Jr. The Texans still have second-year defensive end Dylan Horton and drafted USC’s Solomon Byrd last month. 

Right now, Watt’s life revolves around football, but now in the broadcast booth. He recently was hired as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports. Watt and his wife, Kealia, also became minority owners of English soccer club Burnley FC last year.

It’s good to know that Ryans could pick up the phone and ask Watt to strap on a helmet in a pinch, but his immediate focus is on the players taking the field entering OTAs next month. 

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire