Texans veteran linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis is making progress in his recovery from a concussion.
The starting defender returned to practice wearing a red jersey, signifying he is off-limits to contact drills.
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 Texans are counting on Pierre-Louis to provide speed and experience as a starting linebacker for new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith playing alongside Zach Cunningham and Christian Kirksey.
"Each of the linebackers that are in the group, fit that scheme of just being fast, running to the ball, guys that are going to give 110 percent effort," Pierre-Louis said. "I pride myself on hustle. I’m not the biggest guy, but I can run to the ball and can hit. All those attributes are going to help this team as we figure everything out going forward.”
The former Boston College standout and Seattle Seahawks fourth-round draft pickhad 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.
He's encouraged by the prospects of playing for Smith, a former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach.
“It’s a blessing," he said. "The first time I met him was one of my visits coming out in 2014. A guy that has sort of like an aura around him. You just trust him right away. You don’t really view him as a coach, just somewhat of a mentor, a person to look up to, a person to really think of and listen to. The fact that I get the opportunity to play under him is something I won’t take for granted, for sure.”
The Texans have instituted a lot of changes with 53 new players added to the roster by new general manager Nick Caserio, a former New England Patriots executive.
“It definitely creates a sense of urgency, which every team should have, but now it’s right in front of your face," Pierre-Louis said. "With that level of competition that’s across all positions, it makes you really take advantage of your time while you’re here and really be a true professional.
“One thing I think that’s helped is a lot of us, especially the new guys, have a couple of years in already. A lot of us understand what it takes to go through an NFL season, really lock in on the playbook, try to communicate, talk about certain things. It’s not as though it’s a coach that’s telling us things, it’s an exchange of information that’s going on right now which I think is very helpful."
Why did Pierre-Louis choose the Texans? Ultimately, he liked what the Texans are instituting in terms of a culture change.
“It was clear to me that they are trying to start something new and headed in a clear direction," Pierre-Louis said. "Every team is preparing for a Super Bowl, but being able to have the opportunity to be a part of something going forward was something that attracted me to this place. That was pretty much it, just the attraction and the competition level, truly testing myself and seeing where I can be.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128