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J.J. Watt Plays Sunday After Having Heart Shocked

Cardinals defensive end has emotional week, 'scared' after situation

Defensive end J.J. Watt battles at the line of scrimmage during Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Defensive end J.J. Watt battles at the line of scrimmage during Sunday's game against the Panthers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – J.J. Watt managed to hold off the tears he was trying not to shed, but he couldn't talk for a moment, battling his emotions.

The veteran defensive end had played his best game of the season – the whole defense had – in a 26-16 win over the Panthers – but it had been hard for Watt, who a few days earlier admitted he had been "scared" when his heart needed to be shocked back into rhythm.

With his first child on the way in a matter of weeks, the emotions were expected.

"For months we've been looking at ultrasounds of the baby, and it was happy, and then Thursday we were looking at an ultrasound of my heart," Watt said. "It's been tough. It's been a week."

That was the moment when Watt battled back any tears. It had been a private situation until Watt heard it wasn't, a leak meaning it was going to be reported to the nation before the morning NFL games.

So Watt tweeted the information himself a few hours before kickoff. And he was quietly fuming afterward.

"The only people that knew were people I should trust," Watt said. "Injuries, I don't care. If you leak injuries I don't care. It's football. This one, this one was very emotional for me. So it upset me."

The veteran defensive end was listed on the injury report this week with his calf issue, but "illness" was added to the designation on Thursday. Watt missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices.

He was back at practice Friday and worked on a limited basis.

Watt tweeted that he "went into A-Fib" and had to have his heart shocked. A-Fib -- Atrial fibrillation -- is defined as a "an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart," according to the Mayo Clinic. It can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Watt had missed the first game of the year with his calf injury but played in the last three games. He has two sacks this season to lead the team.

"I talked to cardiologists, electrophysiologists, from all over the country, and I was assured multiple times there was nothing else I could do and I could go and play like normal. It could happen again the next day, it could happen never again or in 20 years."

Watt said he did consider not playing Sunday.

"I didn't know what else to do," Watt said. "They said I was fine. I'd probably be more uncomfortable sitting on my couch at home. This is what I know. Right or wrong, Maybe that's messed up."

Coach Kliff Kingsbury called Watt "inspiring for all of us," noting everyone was worried as Watt went through what he did. Kingsbury said tight ends coach Steve Heiden had gone through a similar situation, and he was able to let Kingsbury know what would happen.

"Just a scary deal for everybody," Kingsbury said.

Watt, who had a pair of passes knocked down including one that was intercepted by linebacker Dennis Gardeck, said with all the emotions of the week, he learned to appreciate little things more.

That included getting a win against the Panthers.

"I've had injuries before, I've had surgeries before, I've never been nervous," Watt said. "I've never been scared of anesthesia, I've never been scared of surgery, I've never been scared of pain.

"But when they told me they were going to put me out and shock my heart, I was scared."