<
>

J.J. Watt's broken hand impacted his play against Patriots

HOUSTON -- During his pregame warm-up period, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt playfully shadow boxed with Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, his cast looking like a black boxing glove.

He had hoped it wouldn't affect him much, but in reality, the club-like cast he wore made an impact.

He wore a scowl and spoke succinctly.

"It poses some problems, but it wasn't that bad," Watt said.

Was it painful?

"There were times when it was painful, but that's football. People play with pain all the time."

How did it affect what you wanted to do?

"It's not terrible," Watt said. "I mean, I wish I had a hand, but I don't. So you make do with what you got."

It contrasted with his perspective before the game -- before he truly had a chance to play with his wrapped up hand. Watt broke a bone his hand during a drill in Wednesday's practice, then skipped Thursday and Friday's practices to help the hand recover. This kind of injury can require a cast for six to eight weeks, so Watt will likely be in the cast for the rest of the season.

He insisted last week that it wouldn't require adjustment. The reality, though, was that the cast, necessary to make sure he didn't further damage his hand, or allow the break to shift, changed what he could do with that hand. He could no longer grip anything with his hand, making tackles more challenging. He stood in a two-point stance more than he usually does.

Watt had three tackles, including one for loss, in one of his quietest statistical nights this season.

"They had a good game plan," Watt said. "... They're a good team. They weren't going to leave me one-on-one. They didn't. That's just the way it goes. That's become the norm for me."

So far this season Watt has 62 tackles, 47 of them solo, 13.5 sacks, 42 quarterback hits, 25 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and five passes defensed. Watt hasn't had a sack in back-to-back games. He hasn't gone three games without a sack since the 2013 season.

By the time Watt spoke to the media after Sunday night's game, he had a fresh new cast on his left hand. This one allowed his fingers to be exposed, unlike the clubbed cast he wore during the game. This process could be his reality for the rest of the season.