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Watt feels 'great' after returning from concussion protocol, will play against Colts

Pittsburgh Steelers T.J. Watt - The Canadian Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A few days in concussion protocol did not slow down T.J. Watt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker says he feels “great” and expects to play on Saturday when the Steelers (7-6) visit Indianapolis (7-6).

Watt reported concussion-like symptoms last Friday, the day after taking a knee to the facemask from New England running back Ezekiel Elliott on the first play of what became a 21-18 loss to the Patriots. He left for a brief period before being given the OK to play.

The perennial All-Pro said he had “stuff going on” when he reported to the team facility the next day. He returned to practice on Tuesday and was cleared by an independent neurologist Wednesday night.

Watt, whose 14 sacks are second in the NFL, added a tinted visor to his helmet for the majority of the New England game. He declined to get into specifics about the decision, pointing out that he's worn a visor during pregame and during practice, adding that “it's not something that’s new for me.”

Watt also laughed when asked about the tests he underwent before getting cleared to return against New England.

“We can break down every little thing that I do,” he said. “I think it's funny how things get caught on camera when you could do things other times that aren’t on camera. So I’m not going to get in all the specifics and into a debate about it. I'm focused on this week and the Colts.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said the team does not plan to put any restrictions on Watt if he is available. Save for a torn pectoral muscle last season that cost him seven games, Watt has been highly dependable and has not missed a game in his career because of a concussion.

Watt, who is in the mix to win a second AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, isn't the only Steelers outside linebacker who entered the protocol last week. Alex Highsmith left the New England game with a neck injury in the first quarter before being placed in the protocol.

Highsmith, whose six sacks rank second on the team, has been limited in practice during the week. If he can't go, rookie Nick Herbig and veteran Markus Golden figure to take on a larger role.

“To replace a guy (like Highsmith), that would be very tough,” Watt said. “I hope he can make it. But if he can't, obviously we have (Golden) and Herbig to fill in for him, but I feel very comfortable with those guys. But at the same time, Alex is a special player.”