HOUSTON -- J.J. Watt stood at the podium during the first week of the Houston Texans' organized team activities and said he is "doing really well" with his rehab and is "very pleased with the progress" he's making. But as someone who has been dealt season-ending injuries for two straight years, Watt knows his health during the Texans' offseason workouts or training camp doesn't matter. It's about whether he can be on the field for Week 1 and beyond.
Watt knows all this because of what he has been through on the football field and in the training room since the end of the 2015 season, when he needed two back surgeries in less than three months and played in only the first three games the following season.
When Watt needed that second back surgery, he said he went from disappointed and depressed to eventually determined and excited to work his way back.
"When I had to miss my first games ever two years ago with the back injury, I was very frustrated and upset," Watt said. "There are points [when] you're pissed off. You go through, 'Why me?' You go through all of that. You go through the anger and you want to get back as quickly and as healthy as you can so you can play again."
And then, after getting through all of that, Watt was healthy entering 2017 and started to regain his previous form when he broke his left leg on a play during the Kansas City Chiefs' opening drive in Week 5.
Though you would think he would be just as angry dealing with another season-ending injury -- and he did say he had to go "through the hurt and heartbreak of missing another year" -- Watt said he instead has learned he needs to just focus on what he can control.
"I broke my leg," Watt said. "What can you do? It snapped. So you control what you can control.
"Every single day I wake up, I do the rehab I'm allowed to do. I do the workouts I'm allowed to do. And I do them the best that I can. And I try to get as much better as I can each day and stack those days on top of each other."
Between the back and leg injuries, Watt has played in eight total games the past two seasons. Before the 2016 injury, Watt said he had never -- not in youth leagues, high school, college nor in his first five NFL seasons -- missed a game. And that change of no longer being the tough guy and being able to play through injuries, as he did for much of the 2015 season, was hard for him to deal with.
Now, while still rehabbing from the broken leg, Watt acknowledged he still has "bad days," days when he wonders why he has had to go down this path. However, he has learned to "capitalize on the good days."
"The biggest thing I learned is it's just one step at a time," Watt said. "One day at a time. Every little step that I can take forward in the right direction, can minimize the steps backward, the better off I'm going to be. [I've learned I can't get] so frustrated that it's not going faster or I can't do what I want to do yet. ... I need to be ready for the first games. I don't need to be pissed off that today I may not be able to do what I'm going to be able to do in September."
"I look at it one of two ways: You can either sulk -- you can whine, you can complain -- or you can move forward and you can have optimism, and you can move forward with excitement. And, that's what I'm doing. I'm very excited about the future. Obviously, I have been injured the last two years. [I'm] disappointed by it, but not going to let it define who I am or what I'm about. Very, very excited coming out and looking forward to getting back to being even better than I was before."
Before his back injury in 2016, Watt had won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year two seasons in a row, tying an NFL record with the third DPOY award of his career. While it's hard to tell whether Watt will get back to playing at that level, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said based on what he has seen this offseason -- and what he knows about Watt -- he has no doubt he will be back to "full strength" this season.
"Watching him and seeing him in the building every day, I would never bet against J.J. Watt," O'Brien said. "J.J. Watt is a generational player in this league and he'll be back. He's going to be back, and he'll be back to full strength and I just watch the way he is, that's why I feel so good about him.
"He's very positive about where he's at. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get back. I think it's a little bit different than another injury that he had. He just has a real good idea of where he's at, and what he needs to do to get back. He's working very, very hard."
And at age 29, Watt knows what he needs to do to get back to the level at which he played early in his career. He also has made it clear that his passion to play football remains.
"I'm working at making myself as good as I can make myself to help this team win games. I love it, and whenever the passion goes away and whenever the love goes away, then it'll be done," Watt said.
"But, I mean, I broke my back, I broke my leg and I still have the passion, so I don't know if it's going to go away anytime soon. I have a whole lot of it and I'm really, really excited about just working and having fun and getting back out on the field."