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T.J. Watt reflects on 'frustrating' 2022 season, says he's 'evolving' training to avoid future injuries

T.J. Watt's follow-up to his record-tying 2021 season didn't go as envisioned.

A pen and paper might be necessary to keep track of all of the injuries he was forced to deal with in 2022. It began with a torn pectoral, continued with a procedure to clean up his knee, and included a rib ailment.

"I was not 100 percent for a lot of the games, and it was frustrating," Watt told The Athletic. "I just wanted to play football, and I couldn't the way I wanted to. It was tough. … It wasn't easy. It sucked not being able to participate and not being able to put your hand in the pile."

In total, the health problems cost Watt seven games -- a remarkable total, considering the severity of his pectoral injury -- and limited him to 5.5 sacks, 17 less than his 22.5-sack 2021 season. He still earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, but for the first time since 2018, Watt missed out on All-Pro honors and fell short of double-digit sacks for only the second time in his six-year career.

Watt's 2021 season earned him the Defensive Player of the Year award he'd narrowly missed out on winning in 2019 and 2020. The expectation was he'd continue to play at an elite level in the prime of his career, but that was sidetracked with his Week 1 injury, forcing him out of Pittsburgh's season opener at Cincinnati.

The footage of Watt walking to the locker room for further examination was all the football world would see from him for nearly two months. Now that he's been given time to recover, Watt has acknowledged he has some miles on him, and needed to adjust his training.

The torn pectoral was a "freak injury," but he knows mobility and flexibility will be increasingly important to his future.

"I am not training as I was when I was 22, I will tell you that," Watt said. "It makes no sense now. What I have learned is as you get older, you are always evolving. No offseason is the same. You are always evolving and learning about your body, and as I get older, that's how I have approached every offseason, and this one was a little different than the others."

Prior to 2022, Watt was not one to miss many games. He missed just one contest in the first three years of his career, appeared in 15 of 16 in 2020, and played in 15 of 17 in 2021.

With an adjustment in training and time to consider his future, Watt knows 2023 and beyond will come down to one ability more than anything: availability.

"I just need to stay healthy and everything else will take care of itself," Watt said.

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