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J.J. Watt, the 6-foot-5-inch, 290-pound all-pro defensive end for the Houston Texans, has a scar not even his mother could love. Back in September, during the fourth game of the Texans’ (exceptionally dismal) year, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year gashed the bridge of his nose while tackling Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. In each game since, Watt's wound has re-opened during play, resulting in a bright red scar. With his offseason set to begin on Monday, Watt told reporters that he may opt for plastic surgery at the nudging of his mother. "She hates it," Watt said. 

The saga of Watt’s nose has had surprisingly far-reaching ramifications in the football world. The image of the bloodied player went viral, earning him plaudits for his toughness after he continued to play while blood gushed down his face. “I hit people for a living,” he said dryly after the game.

But the injury also started a conversation in professional football about a “blood rule,” which most college and major league sports have enacted. In short: Whenever a player begins bleeding during a game, he or she must leave the field of play until the bleeding stops and and the uniform is cleaned up. Football, not known for its progressivism, remains one of the holdouts.

Fox analyst Mike Pereira, formerly the head of NFL officiating, predicted that Watt's injury might lead the league’s Competition Committee to address a future blood rule in the offseason. If so, the legend of Watt’s nose may keep running.  

On a more heart-warming note: Last year, J.J. Watt was the subject of ESPN segment about his friendship with the Berrys—three young Texas siblings—who were suddenly orphaned in 2011:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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