The Texans’ training room at Reliant Stadium normally opens at 6 a.m.
Watt has put in 16-hour days in his rehab from a dislocated left elbow, working feverishly to get back on the field. The second-year defensive end, who had a superb rookie season with 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks, doesn’t leave Reliant each day until about 9:30 p.m.
“It wears me out, but it wears me out more to not be on the field,” Watt said after watching the Texans practice on Monday afternoon. “I need to everything I can. If that means showing up at 2 a.m., then I’ll show up at 2 a.m. I just want to get back on the field.”
Watt has made rapid progress in his recovery since he was injured in practice on Aug. 2. The Texans know he will be healthy by their regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 9, and they haven’t ruled out a return next week for the third preseason game.
“J.J.’s running, doing really, really well,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “I think if we were opening this week, he would be very, very close to being ready to go.“
Watt went out of his way Monday to credit the Texans’ athletic trainers, who arrive at the stadium early and stay late with him every day.
"We don’t mind if guys want to come in early and get extra work done," Texans director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan said. "We don’t mind coming in early for them. We love motivated players. We love players that want to do the extra and go the extra yard or extra mile. We’re here to help them.”
Watt certainly falls into that category. The player who once left a scholarship at Central Michigan to walk on at his dream school, Wisconsin, started rehabbing on the day he was injured as soon as he returned from a local hospital. He was back at Reliant for more at 5 a.m. the next day.
A day later, Watt was doing pushups in the training room. A couple days after that, he ditched the sling on his left arm and practiced one-handed catches from a JUGS machine with his right hand.
“J.J. attacks his rehab just like he attacks everything else in life,” Kaplan said. “He’s all-in. He’s doing a great job. He has a great attitude. He’s great to work with. He’s easy to work with, and he’s putting his full effort to getting well and helping the Houston Texans achieve what we want to achieve this year.
“He’s very dedicated and motivated to get back on the field and help the Texans win.”
Said Watt of having to watch the Texans’ preseason opener at Carolina on Saturday night from his home in Houston:
“I hated it. Even watching the pregame and seeing the guys warming up in the background, just seeing the little things and missing being on the bus with the guys and that pregame meal and all those types of things, it wasn’t fun to watch the guys play.”
Eleven days into his rehab, Watt said he almost has the full range of motion back in his left arm. He’s focused on regaining his strength as his elbow stabilizes internally. He will wear a protective brace for the first part of the season but does not expect the injury to have any lingering effects come Week 1.
“I’ll be 100 percent,” Watt said. “I might even be better. I’m working on my strength. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I use this time to watch some film, so I’m getting even better mentally, too.”