J.J. Watt revealed Tuesday that he wasn't at full strength during his 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year season.
Watt dislocated his left elbow in training camp on Aug. 2. He did not play in the preseason and wore a large black brace on his arm throughout the regular season and playoffs. It turns out the injury wasn't an afterthought and the brace wasn't some type of mechanical fashion statement.
"In the beginning, it definitely affected me," Watt said on "Texans All Access" on Tuesday afternoon. "All the ligaments in there were torn, they were all gone, so they had to have time to recover and regroup. So obviously, I wasn't at full strength. The brace helped a lot, but it was more of a mental thing, getting over the thought process of knowing that it was injured and making sure that I could still have confidence in it. As the season went on, I got more and more confidence in it and obviously, it didn't hinder me too much; I had some success out there. But (I'm) looking forward to a 100 percent full healthy season."
Despite the elbow, Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and set an NFL record for a defensive lineman with 16 passes defensed in 2012. He said his elbow now feels "great" and that he hopes not to have to wear the brace again.
Watt, 24, has had a whirlwind of an offseason – his first Pro Bowl, a trip to Ireland, a week in the Middle East for the NFL-USO Tour and throwing out the first pitch of the 2013 Major League Baseball season at Minute Maid Park – but working out and training for next season has been his top priority.
Watt said Tuesday that he took two weeks off before the Pro Bowl and has been working out ever since. He does two-a-day workouts three times a week; the second workout is "kind of a secret session" that involves cross training.
"I'm doing a lot of cool things and have a lot of great opportunities, but I'm always making sure I get my workouts in," Watt said. "I make sure to get in plenty of work. That's the foundation. That's how I got to where I am today, and I'm not gonna let that slip. I'm not gonna let myself get complacent. I have so many bigger goals and so much more I want to do in this league.
"There's a lot to my game that I can improve on, and I'm really looking forward to making that next step this year."