Texans' Zach Cunningham didn't start for 'disciplinary reasons'

CLEVELAND -- Texans starting linebacker Zach Cunningham, the NFL's leading tackler last season and one of the highest paid inside linebackers in the NFL, didn't start Sunday's road loss to the Cleveland Browns for disciplinary reasons, according to coach David Culley.

Cunningham didn't play in the first quarter and was replaced by Kamu Grugier-Hill in the starting lineup.

When asked what was the issue with Cunningham, who finished with six tackles while Grugier-Hill had a team-high nine tackles, three for losses, one sack and one forced fumble, Culley repied: 'That's internal."

The Texans had some issues with the former second-round draft pick from Vanderbilt during the preseason with lateness.

Cunningham was a no-show for a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed practice sessions leading up to that game before returning to work the following week, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.

At the time, Culley characterized Cunningham's absence for the preseason finale as "personal reasons."

The Texans restructured Cunningham's four-year, $58 million contract this offseason, accounting that lowered his salary-cap figure this year from $11.4 million to $5.767 million, according to NFL Players Association documents and league sources not authorized to speak publicly.

The Texans converted Cunningham's $8.5 million fully guaranteed base salary into a $7.51 million signing bonus and lowered his salary to $990,000 to add $5.63 million in salary cap space this year.

Cunningham was paid a $12 million signing bonus last year on a deal that includes $33.574 million total guaranteed.

Cunningham's $14.5 million annual average compensation is among the highest inside linebackers in the NFL behind Fred Warner, Bobby Wagner and C.J. Mosley.

In 2022, Cunningham is due a $10 million guaranteed base salary with a salary-cap figure of $14.777 million salary-cap figure

In 2023, Cunningham is due a $11 million nonguaranteed base salary with a $15,777 million salary-cap figure.

In 2024, the final year of his contract, Cunningham is due a $12.5 million nonguaranteed base salary with a $17.277 million salary-cap figure.

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.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns

Photo: Getty Images

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