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Will The Texans Have Starting Linebacker Duo Back For Patriots' Game?

Zach Cunningham and Kevin Pierre-Louis returned to practice prior to facing New England

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans starting linebackers Zach Cunningham and Kevin Pierre-Louis were activated to return and participated in practice Wednesday.

Cunningham, the NFL's leading tackler last season, was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list Friday as a high-risk close contact when defensive tackle Ross Blacklock tested positive and was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list.

Cunningham has 28 tackles, one less than leading tackler Christian Kirksey, after missing a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.

Cunningham, signed to a four-year, $58 million contract last year, has 337 career tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Pierre-Louis has returned to practice, designated for return from injured reserve after recovering from a strained hamstring. He missed the past three games and is now eligible to be placed on the active roster.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill has 18 tackles, four for losses and one sack, filling in for Cunningham and Pierre-Louis this season.

Pierre-Louis missed time with a concussion during the preseason.

Signed to a two-year contract that carries a maximum value of $8 million and includes a $1 million signing bonus, Pierre-Louis' deal has $2.75 million total guaranteed, including a fully guaranteed $1.75 million base salary in 2021. Pierre-Louis has a $2.75 million nonguaranteed base salary in 2022.

The deal has up to $750,000 in per-game active roster bonuses annually and a $500,000 annual playtime incentive.

The former Boston College standout and Seattle Seahawks fourth-round draft pick had 56 tackles and one sack last season for the Washington Football Team. Playing for the Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Chicago Bears and Washington, Pierre-Louis has 184 career tackles, two sacks, eight tackles for losses and nine quarterback hits.

Running back Rex Burkhead (hip) didn't practice and is expected to be out at least this week against the New England Patriots, his former team.