HOUSTON -- Rex Burkhead didn't need much time to contemplate his options when the Houston Texans offered him a new contract and the opportunity to return for next season.
The veteran running back quickly signed a one-year extension with a base value of $2.35 million that includes a $1.6 million base salary fully guaranteed for skill, injury and salary cap, a $500,000 signing bonus and a maximum of $250,000 for the season in per-game roster bonuses, according to league sources.
The Texans' leading rusher for the NFL's last-ranked running game with 403 yards and three touchdown runs, Burkhead, 31, is grateful for the vote of confidence.
“Very thankful, couldn’t do it without my teammates," Burkhead said. "Looking forward to being a part of it next year. I love the guys and the people in this organization and that was a no-brainer for me in discussions. I wanted to be back here. I wanted to continue to grow as a team and do that with the guys and the men in this locker room.”
A gritty former Nebraska standout who previously played for the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, Burkhead salvaged the Texans’ languishing running game. He has started since a loss to the Indianapolis Colts after supplanting David Johnson as the starter in the wake of the Texans trading starter Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints.
The Texans finished last in the NFL with 1,422 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. The Texans are expected to make it a priority to try to upgrade the running game this offseason.
“There will probably be some offseason discussion with all of that," Burkhead said. "A lot of those decisions are made up higher than me, but we’re always just trying to be a physical running game, being physical, being able to do multiple things whether that is in the passing game, pass protection. Of course, running the ball well. I’m going to continue to try and do that, and whoever is in the back field with us as well I’m sure will try to do the same thing.”
Burkhead, who played last season under a one-year, $1.5 million contract that included a $1.125 million base salary, was part of a 4-13 team that entered the season with extremely low expectations. The Texans overachieved a bit under first-year head coach David Culley. Now, Culley and the entire coaching staff are under review on whether they'll return. Burkhead enjoyed his experience playing for Culley, who's known for his infectious personalty.
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“Definitely a joy," Burkhead said. "He’s an unbelievable coach. He’s a great leader of this team. People may not see the growth in the win category but from a player’s perspective seeing it out on the practice field, seeing the guys in the locker room, especially some young guys, taking some steps further as been super impressive. Just his positive attitude every day to make sure we’re growing as a unit. He’s done a great job with that.”
The Texans have over 30 players with expiring contracts. The locker room will be vastly different in 2022. They might even wind up with a new head coach.
“We got a lot of guys that are on one-year deals, so a lot of it is anticipation to see what is going to happen with them, whether they will be back or not," Burkhead said. "So, there is a little bit of that anticipation but also just thankful for the opportunities we had this year. A lot of guys just reaching out saying, ‘Hey it was great playing with you this year. It was definitely an honor to go to battle with you every single day.’
"I think that was what was truly cool being in this locker room, what was so special about it was we had a bunch of guys that were fighting continually all year, whether that was fighting through injuries or COVID-related stuff or whatever it may have been. We all have special bonds that we take hold of throughout the season and of course we will stay in touch forever on.”
Burkhead has rushed for 1,804 career yards and 17 touchdowns.
“He's been Mr. Consistent for us,” Culley said. “He's a guy that's going to get north and south. He knows how to play. He just knows how to play the game. Rex could probably play another position. That's just how instinctive he is as a football player."
Burkhead rushed for a career-high 149 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers in an upset victory. He also scored two touchdowns. He spent last offseason rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. After overcoming knee and hip injuries, he's much healthier now to end the season.
"I’m a guy who’s doesn’t get complacent, always feel like I can improve," Burkhead said. "I'm looking forward to this offseason because I’ll be able to train for the majority. Last year it was mostly rehabbing coming back from my knee injury. Really looking forward to get back to tip-top shape for next year. I’m just looking forward to this offseason like I said, and really getting after training and coming back in hopefully the best shape of my life.”