Texans standout linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill avoided a season-ending knee injury with an initial diagnosis indicating he didn't tear ligaments in his right knee and instead suffered a sprain as he aggravated an existing injury that has affected him this season Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Further testing will be conducted to determine if the swelling is too much to allow Grugier-Hill to play as soon as next Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and if perhaps Grugier-Hill could play with a brace.
"The knee is not quite as bad as what we thought," Texans coach David Culley said Monday morning at NRG Stadium. "He's still day-to-day. They're not completely ruling him out for this week. We'll see."
Grugier-Hill leads the Texans with a dozen tackles for losses, including two Sunday during a 33-13 loss at NRG Stadium.
His right knee buckled while dropping back in pass coverage, going down untouched in a non-contact injury before being carted off the field.
There was significant concern initially about the injury, but Grugier-Hill appears to have avoided more significant scenarios involving his recovery.
The injury was jarring to teammates.
"You're just at a loss for words," wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. "I'm praying for him. You talk about a special player, but a special man that means a lot to this team and this locker room. It's so unfortunate that this game comes with those type of things, but he knows we love him. We'll be there with him right by his side through it all. It was just unfortunate.”
Grugier-Hill had a franchise-record 19 tackles a week ago against the Indianapolis Colts. He has 94 tackles for the season and three sacks.
Grugier-Hill’s 13 tackles in the first half tied Jamie Sharper for the most tackles in a half in franchise history, and he joined Derwin James as the only NFL players to have 13 or more tackles in a single half this season.
"Anytime you have one of your teammates not being able to get up on their own, having to be assisted and carted off, you never want to see that," Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "Kamu is a close teammate and close friend to me. It's definitely devastating to watch when a player goes down and a friend as well, but that's a part of the game, sadly. All we can do is just continue to put our prayers out there and keep encouraging him.”
“Just told him that we're pulling for him and praying for him. We're going to keep balling for him and do everything we can to keep going for him. I got a chance to talk to him. I'm sure I'll talk to him later on."
Grugier-Hill was the first NFL player since the 1999 season to finish with 19 tackles, three for losses and a sack.
“He's a great player," Kirksey said. "He's a guy that can play the run and play the pass well. He got right in and he did everything that he could possibly do and he did it very well. Obviously, when he's not on the field his presence is missed and we've just got to just keep going. Like I said, just keep encouraging the guys and keep playing football.”
Signed to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $3.25 million that included a $1 million signing bonus by Texans general manager Nick Caserio, Grugier-Hill kept demonstrating how productive he can be when given extended playing time. He is a candidate for a new contract, given his contributions this year.
Grugier-Hill built a reputation for speed, versatility and toughness during his first five NFL seasons.
A former Eastern Illinois standout where he was teammates with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Grugier-Hill has run the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds with a 38 ½ inch vertical leap and a 10-9 broad jump.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Hawaii native recorded one sack and 21 tackles last season for Miami, playing under a one-year contract for Dolphins coach Brian Flores, his linebackers coach in New England.
Grugier-Hill is hoping to extend his time with the Texans with a new contract. The Texans are open to the idea of bringing back Grugier-Hill, according to league sources.
“I love it here, I really do,” Grugier-Hill said before the Seahawks game. “It's been a frustrating year for sure, but I can see the bones that they're trying to instill and have here and the culture here. It may not look like it right now, but I think this could be a place that I want to be. And I want to help build the culture. I want to grow and be part of it.”
“You can see the bones, you can see the guys we have. There's great guys. I said this last week. We have a record at, what, 2-10 now, and you would think that the locker room would be toxic and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone. But it's really not that. We're just trying to figure it out. We have great guys in the locker room. Everyone comes to work every day, does their thing and we're just trying to figure it out.”