HOUSTON -- One year ago, the Houston Texans rewarded Zach Cunningham with a four-year, $58 million contract extension that included $32.5 million guaranteed as he became one of the highest paid off-the-ball linebackers in the league and he led the NFL in tackles.
The Texans restructured his contract this offseason after general manager Nick Caserio was hired for salary-cap reasons as Cunningham's cap figure was reduced to $5.73 million.
The Texans will also be without their leading rusher, injured running back David Johnson.
Cunningham is out Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts for disciplinary reasons. Cunningham was previously benched for the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns due to recurring lateness issues that have been problematic on multiple occasions, according toe league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
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The Texans have veteran starting linebacker Christian Kirksey back after activating him from injured reserve following thumb surgery.
The former second-round draft pick from Vanderbilt has excelled in the past as a fast, run-stopping linebacker. Earlier this season against the Cleveland Browns, Cunningham didn't start and missed the first quarter for "disciplinary reasons," which stemmed from lateness issues. He missed a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for "personal reasons," as a no-show after not attending a practice session leading up to that August contest before rejoining the team two days later and getting back to work.
Cunningham is due remaining base salaries of $10 million, $11 million and $12.5 million in 2022, 2023 and 2022.
The Texans' inactives besides, Cunningham are running back David Johnson (illness, thigh), offensive guard Justin McCray (concussion), tight end Jordan Akins (healthy scratch), safety Terrence Brooks (hamstring), tight end Jeff Driskel and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons-personal matter).
Rex Burkhead will step in for Johnson and former Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers running back Royce Freeman is slated to make his offensive debut for the Texans after playing on special teams last week in a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets.