INDIANAPOLIS – Drafted 24th overall in 2013, Bjoern Werner played in 15 games counting the playoffs and went through a typical rookie season where flashes of the future came with the first-year learning curve.
With the off-season program just concluded, Werner is heading back to his native Germany to catch up with family before taking his place among teammates as training camp opens July 23.
For Werner, it is a time of opportunity – one that is enhanced as rush linebacker Robert Mathis will be unavailable for the first four games.
"For me, it's no pressure. It's everywhere. Every player gets pressure," said Werner of the chance for significant playing time. "I see that it's an honor for me to be that guy. I hope to be the guy to replace him for the first four games.
"Hopefully, I can live up to it. The only thing I can control is to work hard every day and try to do my best. We'll see what happens."
Werner had one start as a rookie and totaled just more than 300 defensive snaps, along with 41 more in the playoffs.
He came here last year eager to meet Mathis after watching him as a youth. The club's career sack leader sees an emerging performer.
"Leaps and bounds," said Mathis of Werner's growth in 2014. "He's comfortable out there now moving around, moving real fast – less thinking and more doing."
Werner was a disruptive force at Florida State, where his coach, Jimbo Fisher, felt quickly he was ticketed for Sunday play.
Fisher saw Werner's instincts and ethic lead him to eight passes batted and 13 sacks in 2012, and some outside on-lookers have placed Werner in the category of a developing J.J. Watt.
"His demeanor is one of all business," said Ryan Grigson. "He's here to do a job and do it well, and you can just see it in his focus.
"His focus right now is at a peak level. He knows what's at stake. You see it just in the way he's playing right now – the way he's getting off the ball, the way his body looks."
Grigson said early this off-season he looked for a more physical performer in year two. Werner has delivered.
"He was a constant that was here every second," said Grigson. "He was like a wall flower. He was here every time you turned around, Bjoern was somewhere in the building."
Werner said he did not try to gain weight. He focused on getting faster and stronger among the "big boys" out there.
"Every year you get more comfortable," said Werner. "Robert can tell you that in his 12th year. The longer you play in the same system, the easier it gets. The plays just flow through your head.
"Sometimes there are fast guys out there who play slow, and there are slow guys who play fast. You're just trying to feel comfort and cruise around out there."
Werner had 2.5 sacks last year, a total tying fifth-most on the club and well behind Mathis' 19.5.
He may have a chance to pull ahead of Mathis over the first four games.
Werner feels much more at home having gotten pressures of his rookie season out of the way – the combine and draft process and relocating to a strange city.
Right now, it is about knowledge in the defense and producing however he can.
"He's still helping me. It didn't stop. Now, it's more like a brotherhood," said Werner of Mathis. "We're helping each other out. The first four games, he's going to watch and probably tell me right away what I did wrong and what I did good and what I can improve on.
"It's good to see he's not selfish. He wants the young guys to do good. It's an honor. Every young guy takes that wisdom."
With camp 33 days away, Werner will recharge to be ready in July. From year one to right now, he feels the progression.
"It's being more comfortable with the calls and just more fluid," said Werner. "You run around out there being a linebacker. It's such a big jump for me personally. I feel so comfortable, like I'm here for like 10 years already.
"I feel really healthy, good, strong, fast, so now I just have to show it out there. (I'm) excited to be a part of this team. I expect to make a big jump this year."