J.J. Watt’s past two offseasons were fraught with trepidation as he recovered from major injuries, but now the Houston Texans defensive end is fully confident.
In 2016, Watt was trying to come back from surgery to repair a herniated disc in late July. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year lasted three games before his back gave out.
In 2017, Watt broke his left tibial plateau five games into his comeback season.
In 2018, Watt had to battle retain his confidence while having niggling feelings in the back of his mind that he had no idea where he was going in his recovery.
Now, in 2019, Watt is a better place mentally because there is no more ambiguity related to rehabilitation.
“I feel a lot better, obviously, mentally, last year than this year because I’m not wondering,” Watt told reporters Tuesday after the first day of veteran minicamp. “Last year was a lot of wondering, hoping, having a good idea that I was on the right path but you never know for sure when you’re coming off of what I was coming off of. This year, you’re not coming off of as much, you’re just working and growing and getting better.”
Watt finished 2018 playing all 16 games and producing 16.0 sacks along with leading the NFL with seven forced fumbles. While Watt did not earn his fourth NFL Defensive Player of the Year honor or even take home the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, he did return to form as a first-team All-Pro selection.
Taking that along with a Pro Bowl nod into the offseason, along with the team finishing 11-5 and winning the AFC South, has given Watt a confident gait throughout the offseason.
“You have more of a confident stance, and I think that’s where I’m at this year,” Watt said. “I’m very confident, where as last year I was confident, but kind of hesitant. So, this year that hesitancy is gone, not having come of a bad injury but coming off of a solid season.”
Watt enters his ninth season and is 30 years old. If the Texans can get back to a regularly scheduled prime of a future Hall of Famer in Watt, then Houston’s defense should be formidable when they face their 16-game slate.
“It’s good to have that feeling and it’s good to be going into a season without those doubts,” said Watt.