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J.J. Watt: I played hurt for Houston Texans last season

With 20.5 sacks, 81 tackles and 16 pass deflections, J.J. Watt's 2012 season was the definition of beastly.

The NFL Defensive Player of the Year said he did all that while never fully healed from a dislocated left elbow suffered early in training camp.

"In the beginning, it definitely affected me," Watt said Tuesday on Texans Radio, via "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. ... But (I'm) looking forward to a 100 percent full healthy season."

The injury clearly didn't slow down Watt one iota in 2012, but it's the sort of nagging injury that might have affected lesser players.

Watt said he's feeling "great" these days, and he hopes he won't have to wear a bulky brace in 2013.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.

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