Texans' Zach Cunningham a healthy scratch for disciplinary reasons

One year ago, the Houston Texans rewarded Zach Cunningham with a four-year, $58 million contract extension that included $32.5 million guaranteed as he became one of the highest paid off-the-ball linebackers in the league and he led the NFL in tackles. The Texans restructured his contract this offseason after general manager Nick Caserio was hired for salary-cap reasons as Cunningham's cap figure was reduced to $5.73 million.

Now, Cunningham's role on the field has been impacted for the second time for disciplinary reasons. Cunningham is out against the Indianapolis Colts for disciplinary reasons after not arriving on time for mandatory COVID-19 testing Sunday morning in the hours before kickoff, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. Cunningham was previously benched for the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns due to recurring lateness issues that have been an issue on multiple occasions, according to sources.

One week ago, the Texans benched starting safety Justin Reid as a healthy scratch for disciplinary reasons following a disagreement in a team meeting with coach David Culley that also involved an argument with wide receiver Chris Conley, per league sources.

New York Jets v Houston Texans

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The Texans also disciplined cornerback Desmond King against the Los Angeles Rams after unexcused absences at mandatory team activities, according to sources.

The Texans have veteran starting linebacker Christian Kirksey back after activating him from injured reserve following thumb surgery. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill had 13 tackles in the first half against the Colts, tying Jamie Sharper's franchise record for most tackles in a single half.

The former second-round draft pick from Vanderbilt has excelled in the past as a fast, run-stopping linebacker. Cunningham missed a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for "personal reasons," as a no-show after not attending a practice session leading up to that August contest before rejoining the team two days later and getting back to work.

Cunningham is due remaining base salaries of $10 million, $11 million and $12.5 million in 2022, 2023 and 2022.

The Texans' inactives besides, Cunningham (disciplinary reasons) are running back David Johnson (illness, thigh), offensive guard Justin McCray (concussion), tight end Jordan Akins (healthy scratch), safety Terrence Brooks (hamstring), tight end Jeff Driskel and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons-personal matter).

Rex Burkhead will step in for Johnson and former Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers running back Royce Freeman is slated to make his offensive debut for the Texans after playing on special teams last week in a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets.


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