Watt going out on top after 'bittersweet' retirement announcement, says Gross-Matos

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J.J. Watt is still going out at the top of the game even if it is "bittersweet" that he will end his NFL career without a Super Bowl title.

That is the view of Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who believes Watt has been a long-time inspiration to many younger players.

Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Watt announced his impending NFL retirement on Monday.

He posted on Twitter that Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first NFL game his son attended but also his final home game before retiring after the 2022 season.

Already eliminated from the playoffs, the Cardinals play their final two games on the road – at the Atlanta Falcons this week and at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18.

"If it is the end, it is kind of bittersweet," Gross-Matos said to Stats Perform about Watt, whose 2021 move to Arizona did not produce the long postseason run he craved.

"For someone who has done so much for the sport, you kind of want them to go out with the championship, especially for all he has done.

"But he has still had a great career. He is still getting double-digit sacks and he was able to get three in a game [against the Denver Broncos in Week 15].

"So I mean, he's still going out on top and I am hoping for the best for him.

"He did right by the shield and set a great example for a lot of great defenders coming after him

"He was definitely a huge inspiration for me, someone I looked up to a lot. He is someone I've watched over the years and continue to watch to this day.

"And, when I was in college he definitely convinced me to get in the weight room when he was throwing guys around [in the NFL]."

One of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers early in his career, Watt battled through some major injuries in the past few seasons and also revealed in October he was playing through a case of atrial fibrillation.

A first-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2011, the 33-year-old is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.

The future Hall of Famer led the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, and his 111.5 career sacks rank fourth among active players. His 9.5 sacks this season are his most since recording 16 in 2018.

"Koa's first ever NFL game," Watt wrote in his announcement. "My last ever NFL home game.

"My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It's been an absolute honour and a pleasure."