HOUSTON — Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice on Thursday, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The rookie suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees and will go on injured reserve. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team hadn't announced the injury.
His injury is the latest blow to a team that lost three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus to season-ending injuries on Oct. 8.
The former Clemson standout had been a bright spot in a challenging season for the Texans (3-4). The 12th overall pick in this year's draft was the AFC offensive player of the month after throwing for 1,171 yards with 16 touchdowns and running for 145 yards and another score.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, talked about Watson's injury, and noted that he rebounded from the same injury when he was with the Tigers.
"I talked to Deshaun late this afternoon and we are disappointed," Swinney said. "But, he is a person who has had some setbacks in his life, and always comes back stronger. Since he went through the rehab before, he knows what it takes."
Watson also tore his ACL in 2014 as a freshman at Clemson.
"All he did after the injury in 2014 was come back and lead us to the national championship game twice and of course we won it last year," Swinney said. "He started all 30 games the last two years here. I have no doubt he will come back from this. He has the resolve. His work ethic and drive are incredible."
Many people took to Twitter to express dismay at the injury and wish Watson well.
Watt tweeted: "Minor setback for a major comeback. We've all seen what's possible, can't wait to see what's next. With you every step of the way 4,".
NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted a link to a story about his injury and wrote: "This seriously just made me sad man!! Get well and stronger asap."
Watson's development this season had been a revelation for a team that has featured a revolving door at quarterback over recent years. The Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a $72 million contract before last season, but he was benched before the season was over and shipped to Cleveland in the offseason.
When Houston traded up 13 picks to take Watson, many assumed he'd be the starter to open the season. But Coach Bill O'Brien insisted he back up Tom Savage.
Watson's time as a backup was short-lived as Savage struggled in the opener and was benched at halftime, making the former Clemson standout the ninth quarterback the Texans have played in the past five years.
Watson made his first start in Week 2 and immediately excelled, leading the Texans to a 13-9 win on the road against the Bengals.
Since then, he's turned a team known for defense into one with a high-flying offense. Under his guidance, the Texans had scored 30 or more points in five straight games to set a franchise record.
Watson's 19 touchdown passes are tied for the league lead and are the most in NFL history through a player's first seven games. He leads all quarterbacks this season with 21 touchdowns overall and has thrown four or more touchdown passes in three games this season to join Fran Tarkenton as the only rookies in NFL history to do so.
Now with his brilliant season cut short, the Texans will look to Savage to salvage this injury-plagued season and try to reach the playoffs for the third straight season.
The Texans host the Colts (2-6) on Sunday and Indianapolis announced earlier Thursday that franchise quarterback Andrew Luck had been placed on injured reserve as he recovers from a shoulder problem that hasn't allowed him to play at all this season.
The Texans will sign Matt McGloin to back up Savage, a person familiar with the move told The AP on the condition of anonymity because the team hadn't announced it. McGloin, who played for O'Brien at Penn State, was released by the Eagles on Sept. 1.