Brandon Dunn planted powerfully during a pass rushing drill, reversing direction without any hesitancy or ill effects from a fractured hip suffered last December against the Chicago Bears.
Dunn demonstrated his explosiveness has returned as he slammed his hands into a blocking sled. He displayed quickness and conditioning during challenging agility sessions.
The Texans’ veteran defensive tackle has been fully medically cleared for over a month since recovering from a serious injury that prematurely ended his season last year when he was carted to the locker room from Soldier Field.
Now, Dunn is preparing diligently for training camp with intense workouts with private defensive line coach Brandon Jordan.
“I had a fracture in my hip, we recovered through the graces of God and our training staff in Houston, so it’s been great,” Dunn said. “It’s been a long journey and I’ve handled it and basically taken care of it the whole offseason. You’ve got to be smart about everything. I’ve been doing this injury rehab. It’s not an injury during a normal year, so I’ve been locked in and getting ready to get back to work.
“There really hasn’t been no days off. After the season, it’s been about rest and recovery and then I had to get back to it with the hip because it was a serious injury and get ready to play. I feel 100 percent now and I’m ready to compete.”
Heading into the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract, Dunn started 13 games last season and recorded 26 tackles and three quarterback hits. A former undrafted free agent from Louisville who was signed by the Texans in 2018 off the Bears’ practice squad, Dunn, 28, is enjoying the work with Jordan and the camaraderie with teammates Vincent Taylor, Jacob Martin and Jaleel Johnson.
“This is great,” Dunn said. “Ever since I came here with BT, I just wanted to get some work. We all get work together. I reached out to him. He answered the call. He wasn’t familiar with the injury. He took care of me.”
Dunn, who has started 37 of 76 career games, has 114 career tackles, one sack, eight tackles for losses and nine quarterback hits.
Dnnn earned praise from former Texans defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver last season when he was nominated for the NFL’s Art Rooney sportsmanship award.
"Brandon Dunn, he’s one of my favorite players I’ve coached all-time," Weaver said. "You talk about a guy who has earned everything that he’s gotten from the second he’s gotten in the league. He started on the practice squad in Chicago and we were fortunate enough to get him here.
“There were times where he was almost cut but he’s continued to work and get better at his craft. It’s an incredible testament to his work ethic, his tenacity and his love for the game and his ability to go out there and grind and get better."
Dunn is regarded as a leader on a revamped defensive line that has to replace defensive end J.J. Watt after the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was cut at his request and signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
“I hope it speaks volumes,” said Dunn, a popular member of the team as the designated locker room DJ. “I hope it rubs off on some young players and people around me. At the end of the day, we're all working toward the same goal. I'm just a part of the crowd."
The Texans are coming off a disappointing 4-12 campaign and are attempting to change the culture since hiring general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley.
I just want to win, we all want to win,” Dunn said. “Tthe most important thing out here is winning. That means embedding it in the players. We're going to take that and go to camp and hopefully everybody understands and gets the message that everybody is trying to win. It's all simple. Just three letters: W-I-N.”
Playing for veteran defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Dunn is looking forward to the experience.
“It’s D-line friendly,” Dunn said. “Coach Lovie Smith, his history speaks for itself. Everybody trusts him that he’s going to put us in the right position.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.