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J.J. Watt's Fawning Media

J.J. Watt scoffs at doubters and fawning media questions: Texans star makes training camp vow

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J.J. Watt finger wag
J.J. Watt isn't buying the idea that his stats are bound to be reduced this year. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
J.J. Watt Brian Cushing
J.J. Watt is excited by the prospect of playing with a healthy Brian Cushing again. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Bob McNair Kareem Jackson
J.J. Watt sees playmakers up and down the Texans defense — from linebacker to cornerbacks like Kareem Jackson. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
J.J. Watt finger wag
J.J. Watt Brian Cushing
Bob McNair Kareem Jackson
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

It's a softball question possessing about as much bite as a Disney cartoon. It's one of those queries that leaves you wondering if the reporter who asked it is merely trying to court favor with J.J. Watt.

But Watt is still having none of it.

He bats it down like it's a Ryan Tannehill pass. For this softball question — as cushy and happy as it seems to be — contains elements of limiting J.J. Watt's vision. And the Houston Texans defensive game changer absolutely refuses to accept such talk. No matter how kindly it appears.

So when a reporter earnestly asks Watt if he could have a better season in 2013 even without those supersized 2012 stats, the defensive end practically scoffs back.

"I'm going to be better," Watt firmly insists. "Just watch."

And it's clear by better, Watt doesn't mean in some intangible way suggested by the questioner. No, Watt means better in the measurables too. As in 20 and a half sacks, 16 passes defensed and four forced fumbles are just the starting point.

Watt knows no one really seems to want to believe him.

 "I'm going to be better," Watt firmly insists. "Just watch." 

He notes how commentators preface any remarks about his upcoming season with the same refrain. "When they talk about me, they start by saying I'm not going to be able to do what I did last year," Watt says. For a man who seems to categorize every slight (trust me, I know), this is all priceless fuel.

J.J. Watt seems grateful that people are doubting that he can even repeat — let alone top — last season. As the Texan veterans report to training camp, with two-a-day practices beginning Friday morning, Watt comes across as nearly giddy.

While the always honest Andre Johnson admits standing in front of a media pack in the bowels of Reliant Stadium — just down the hall from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus! — is about the last place he wants to be and even stage-loving defensive end/ninja Antonio Smith allows it's bittersweet, noting "I guess our freedom is over," Watt is all smiles. And jokes.

"You guys look fantastic," he says in greeting the media.

When someone shoots back that Watt looks pretty good himself he deadpans, "Thanks, I've been working out."

Of course, there is plenty of truth in that. Watt is most pumped that so many other Texans have taken to the mantra.

"This team is focused," Watt says.

A Super Bowl Vision

Other NFL teams may share stories of their summer vacations. The Texans share stories about working out — and what they did to come back better.

"Everybody's first couple of sentences (on the offseason) start with training," Watt says. "I trained here, that kind of thing . . ."

Watt may be still only 24 and entering his third NFL season, but he knows it's not always like that. This is a Texans defense that clearly believes it can be the No. 1 defense in the NFL with linebacker Brian Cushing returning and veteran free agent prize Ed Reed joining on (though if you're taking Johnson's offhand remark about Reed being ready for the Week One Monday Night Opener as gospel, you probably need a lesson in perspective). Like all-pro tailback Arian Foster (calf strain), Reed will begin training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list — and not rush anything.

 He's already promising to get out-of-shape rookie linebacker Sam Montgomery "right." Think Montgomery relishes the thought of having No. 99 stare him down? 

When Reed's hip is really ready, he and Watt figure to make sweet ball-hawking music together though. Late in the season. And in the playoffs. When it truly matters.

"I want to be tipping him interceptions," Watt says.

In turn, Reed will surely teach Watt a thing or two being a championship caliber leader. That is how Texans coach Gary Kubiak asked Watt to raise his game in their exit meeting after that second round playoff loss in New England last January. And so far Watt looks like an eager study.

He's already promising to get out-of-shape rookie linebacker Sam Montgomery "right." Think Montgomery relishes the thought of having No. 99 stare him down? Yes, Watt is fine with setting the tone for the season even before the first practice.

"Division championships that's cool," Watt says. "But it's old news. First round playoff wins — that's cool. But it's old news.

"We have one singular goal."

Well, Watt actually has a number of lofty, unmentionable goals. As usual. Which include bettering his own 2012. Pity the softball who doubts that.

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