J.J. Watt on facing struggling Texans for first time: 'It hurts me to see where it is now'

It was only 21 months ago that the Texans were running the Chiefs off the field in the playoffs before an epic Kansas City comeback abruptly ended a memorable Houston campaign.

The sudden turnaround from the AFC Divisional Round meeting pales in comparison to the one Houston has undergone since. J.J. Watt, the greatest player in the history of the Texans, can barely recognize the franchise that parted ways with him in February.

It'll make for a polarizing reunion Sunday when the Cardinals defensive end takes on his former team for the first time.

"There's obviously something more to it," Watt told reporters Thursday, per ESPN. "I don't think that it's what people may think it is because, I mean, you look at the roster and you look at the guys that are there, I mean it's been so massively turned over that there's only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with.

"So, it's not like, I'm like, 'Oh, I want to go and beat my old team' or 'Oh, I can't wait to face this guy,' because it's not the same team. It's not the same organization that I remember and that I was a part of.

"There's so many guys I don't know."

In addition to the majority of 2020 starters, Houston's overhaul also includes a new general manager (Watt's tenure overlapped just one month with Nick Caserio's) and coaching staff, led by David Culley.  

Through six weeks of 2021, the Texans are 1-5 and have the league's worst point differential (minus-80). Watt spent the first 10 years of his pro career piling up accolades in H-Town while helping lead the NFL's youngest franchise to six division titles. Four of those came between 2015-19. Moreover, Watt was immersed in local communities and a dedicated ambassador for the city of Houston.

"That's why it hurts me to see where it is now, because I believe those fans deserve to be living those high times and to be experiencing those great moments and it hurts to know that they're not, and to know that they're struggling," Watt said. "So, I hope that they get back there at some point and I hope that they get to do that because I know firsthand it's an unbelievable place to play when you're rolling."

"I mean there's 10 years of my life and there's 10 years of relationships," Watt said, "so it's not like I just chucked all my Houston stuff."

Here's guessing Texans fans are holding onto their memories of Watt in blue and white as well.

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