The Texans are lucky that the Jaguars' annual London game is scheduled for Week 8 and not Week 7. If the Texans had been forced to travel to London for their road game against the Jaguars on Sunday, they would've faced an interesting dilemma: find Deshaun Watson a boat to transport him across the Atlantic, or let him take the team plane along with his teammates?
On Sunday, the Texans beat the Jaguars 20-7 in Jacksonville to extend their winning streak to four games. Despite dealing withWatson was healthy enough to start and finish the game. He just wasn't healthy enough to take the plane to Jacksonville.
As Fox Sports' Jay Glazer first reported before Sunday's game, Watson took a bus to Jacksonville instead of the team plane because the team was worried the air pressure could have an effect on his injuries. After the game, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora learned from a team source that the move was "strictly precautionary."
La Canfora reports:
The team was concerned about putting Watson through the air pressure of a plane flight as the quarterback is dealing with the team has called a chest injury. Watson, who has been playing with the injury since Week 5, practiced in full this week and was not in doubt for the game. Watson said after the game he watched football on his bus ride to Jacksonville and slept a lot. Coach Bill O'Brien said his quarterback "is playing hurt" but did not elaborate. The bus ride was first reported by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who has reported Watson is suffering from a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and a partially collapsed lung.
Watson finished 12 of 24 for 139 yards, a touchdown, no picks, and a 81.8 passer rating as the Texans rode their ground game against a Jaguars team in utter disarray. Most importantly, he got sacked only once and the Jaguars hit him only five times. Entering the game, Watson had been sacked 25 times and hit 70 times in six games.
The injury is obviously concerning. So are all the hits Watson has been taking. So is the news of Watson's method of transportation. La Canfora reported the move was precautionary, but this isn't ordinary. It's strange that a player was deemed healthy enough to play in a football game, during which 300-pound men are trying to hit him as much as possible, but wasn't healthy enough to fly on an airplane.
From a purely football perspective, the Texans can't really afford to play without Watson. They're 4-3, and with the rest of the AFC South struggling, they're in first place in the division. But the Texans need to find a way to balance their goals this season while keeping an eye on their long-term future. They can't keep letting Watson take a beating just so they can win a bad division this year. Watson's future matters more than their short-term outlook.
How they handle his injuries, how they protect him, and how he protects himself as a runner matters just as much as their final record.