J.J. Watt 'wasn't at full strength'

Updated: April 4, 2013, 5:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

J.J. Watt had a dominating season in 2012, leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks despite having to play with an elbow injury that he revealed this week was more significant than thought.

The Houston Texans defensive end dislocated his elbow in the first week of training camp, and the team's trainers popped it back into place. He wore a brace the entire season after sitting out most of the preseason but went on to win the Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year award.

Besides his league-leading sack total, he also deflected 16 passes, made 81 tackles and forced four fumbles.

In an interview with Sports Radio 610 in Houston on Tuesday, Watt said he was never at full strength. He said his elbow is "feeling great" now.

"In the beginning, it definitely affected me," Watt said in the interview. "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."