The Morning Huddle: What Exactly Happened to J.J. Watt's Knee

Jacob Feldman

It's hard to imagine breaking your knee with a simple misstep, but then again it's hard to imagine many things J.J. Watt does with his blend of size, speed, and power. During the first quarter of Monday night's loss to the Chiefs, Watt clipped his left foot against the back of his right ankle and then fell forward onto that left foot, sending all of his momentum through his femur into the top of his lower leg bone, or tibial plateau. The motion that caused the injury is similar to what causes ACL tears, says Dr. William Ricci, the head of the Orthopedic Trauma Service at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, but in Watt's case his bone gave before his ligament.

Judging by Watt's inability to put weight on his knee before his quick transport to the hospital, experts believe he is now dealing with a large crack in his bone that will require a plate and screws to stabilize. For a second straight season, the three-time defensive player of the year is done early. As he was helped off the field, the buzz around the Texans (who also lost linebacker Whitney Mercilus to a torn pectoral muscle) went with him. Week 5 was a brutal one for injuries as Odell Beckham Jr. was also knocked out and several marquee QBs are now banged up (See Press Coverage No. 4 below), but Watt's absence may be the most meaningful.

A few other notes from Ricci on what the heart of Houston now faces:

• Bone heals faster than a ligament tear, and Watt shouldn't face an increased risk of re-injury after recovering, though he most likely won't be able to walk for six weeks or fully participate in strenuous activity for three to four months.

• Because the fracture occurred near a joint, Watt does have to worry about arthritis in the area down the road and for the time being could be dealing with painful swelling in the knee.

• Recovery from tibial plateau fractures are usually predictable; based on the X-ray and surgery results, doctors should have a clear timetable for Watt's progression, but don't be surprised if he beats it.

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Rookie Mitchell Trubisky gave up a strip sack in the second quarter before throwing a costly interception late in his debut.
Rookie Mitchell Trubisky gave up a strip sack in the second quarter before throwing a costly interception late in his debut.

1. Vikings 20, Bears 17. The most notable throw of Mitchell Trubisky's Chicago debut was his second-to-last, an interception at his own 22 that set up an easy game-winning field goal for the visitors. Minnesota starter Sam Bradford was pulled for Case Keenum after starting five-of-11 passing for 36 yards.

2. This will be very hard to top for the honor of weirdest story of the 2017 season: Chris Foerster resigned as Dolphins assistant coach after video of him snorting lines of white powder appeared online late Sunday night.

3. QB controversy is back in Cleveland. Coach Hue Jackson said he will decide by Wednesday whether DeShone Kizer or Kevin Hogan will start Sunday in Houston.

4. Marcus Mariota could be a game-time decision for Monday night's tilt with the Colts (Andrew Luck, meanwhile, has already been ruled out). In other QB injury news, Matthew Stafford is now dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries, while Jack Del Rio anticipates Derek Carr returning from his back injury Sunday.

Legendary quarterback Y.A. Tittle died Sunday night at 90.
Legendary quarterback Y.A. Tittle died Sunday night at 90.

5. Hall of Fame QB Yelberton Abraham "Y.A." Tittle died Sunday night at 90. The fourth oldest living Hall of Famer led the Giants to three title games and made seven Pro Bowls.

6. A day after the Cowboys fell to 2-3, many in Dallas wondered if Dak Prescott should have slid short of the goal line rather than giving Aaron Rodgers 1:13 to mount a comeback (he'd only need 1:02). "We’ll be second guessing those last two calls for a long time," owner Jerry Jones said.

7. Elsewhere in the NFC East, Bill Barnwell tries to figure out how the Giants got to this 0-5 place, and where they might go from here.

8. After another concussion Sunday night, Kevin Seifert wonders, Is it time for the kickoff to go?

9. The Buccaneers have another new kicker. Pat Murray, who had the job in Tampa in 2014, takes over for Nick Folk.

10. Leonard Fournette is quickly becoming both a fan and teammate favorite.

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I was going to say that the Vikings had a cool duck, duck, goose touchdown celebration last night. But then I learned that it's called duck, duck, gray duck in Minnesota. What the duck?

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