Arizona Cardinals’ J.J. Watt plays days after having heart procedure

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CHARLOTTE, NC — With trembling lips, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman JJ Watt was on the verge of tears Sunday night after a 26-16 win over the Carolina Panthers as he spoke of his son’s impending birth and the dichotomy of spending months watching to his future son’s ultrasounds from seeing his heart ultrasound on Thursday as he had to reset his rhythm after going into atrial fibrillation on Wednesday.

Watt spoke about his health situation minutes after the game while still in full uniform. The 33-year-old tried to keep his balance by explaining what happened to winning a match last week.

“It’s obviously been a very emotional week for my family, for my wife and for myself,” Watt said. “So, I’m really happy to get a win today. Of course I’ve had a lot of emotions, but I’ve learned to appreciate the little things even more and that’s why it’s nice to win today.”

Watt said he was considering not playing against the Panthers on Sunday, but after speaking with cardiologists and electrophysiologists, he was told several times and reassured that it was safe for him to play. The doctors told Watt that his heart is going into atrial fibrillation, which is “an irregular heart rhythm that starts in the upper chambers of your heart,” according to the Cleveland Clinic, anytime — whether it’s the next day or 20 years from now.

Watt made his condition public Sunday morning with a tweet after receiving a phone call telling him the news had been leaked and would be reported. He said the only people who knew about the episode were his family and the people in the Cardinals’ building, and he was frustrated to find out it had come out.

“The only people who knew were people I had to trust,” Watt said. “And so, injuries, I don’t care. If you’re leaking injuries, whatever, that’s football. But this one was very emotional for me, so it upset me.”

Watt said additional disappointment came from knowing it had been leaked before a match and he didn’t want it to overshadow the match.

“I’m grateful to be there with them,” he said.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t know what atrial fibrillation was until he was told about Watt’s condition. Kingsbury said on Sunday that Cardinals tight-ends coach Steve Heiden had atrial fibrillation a few times and explained it to Kingsbury.

“Just a scary deal for everyone,” Kingsbury said. “But I’m glad it was discovered. He seems better than ever.’

Watt said his heart was beating “weirdly” on Wednesday, which led to him having it examined and being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. On Thursday, he had to undergo a procedure to get his heart back into rhythm. He was back in training on Friday.

Watt said he has never been scared or nervous in the past because of his numerous injuries or surgeries, the pain that came with them, or the anesthesia he received. However, when he was told that he would have to be put to sleep on Thursday to reset his heart, Watt was scared.

“I’m glad I’m here today,” he said.

Watt said he was asked “why?” quite a bit, but the doctors didn’t have the answer. Once Watt was told it was safe for him to play, he knew what he was going to do.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “My wife was by my side all the time. So that helped a lot, and then I just didn’t know what else to do. I’ve been playing this game all my life. They said I was fine. So, then my heart was reset, they said, “I’m fine. If you feel comfortable.”

“I would probably feel more uncomfortable sitting on my couch at home. You know, this is what I know. Right or wrong. Maybe that’s a mess, but if I were sitting at home watching the boys play and knowing that They said I was fine to play, I would have felt weird, so I just did what I know.”

Quarterback Kyler Murray said none of the cardinals “really understand what he went through or what happened.” Murray checked on Watt when he heard about the situation. Seeing him at practice Friday was “proof of what kind of man he is, the heart he has, the love for the game he has.”

Watt finished with three tackles, two batted passes and nearly got a sack while playing 41 of the possible 51 defensive snaps.

“Show what kind of person and competitor, human he is,” Kingsbury said. “He’s special and of course we were all concerned when he wasn’t there for a few days to run the tests and deal with that, but I think it was definitely inspiring for all of us and he played at a really high level and He just continues to amaze, the type of person and player he is.”


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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