Rex Burkhead was battling through a painful hip injury, and a quadriceps issue that initially was expected to sideline him for Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Instead, the veteran running back wound up playing a pivotal role in a 30-16 victory as he grinded out some tough yards and rushed for a season-high 41 yards on 16 carries and picked up some key first downs in short-yardage situations in the fourth quarter. Burkhead rushed for 28 yards in the second half, supplanting David Johnson as the primary running back to complement rookie quarterback Davis Mills' passes.
"Rex is a fighter," Mills said. "He's the guy when we need to drive down the field and trust someone with the ball in his hand, Rex is the guy. He's able to do what's best for the team. And when we were having to drive the ball down in that 4-minute mode trying to eat the clock, he was running hard. You could see him get up and come back to the huddle just determined to go out and win that game."
On a soggy field, the versatile former Nebraska standout and New England Patriots running back made some important contributions.
Yards are hard to come by for the NFL's last-ranked rushing attack. They rushed for 75 yards on 26 carries, but did enough to keep the Jaguars defense honest and set up play-action passes.
“The rain started pouring down so we knew the run game was going to have to be a focus for us, something we establish and be physical at the point of attack with, and we did that. It wasn’t always easy yards, it was definitely some grinding times," Burkhead said. "But I thought the line did a tremendous job and T.K. (offensive coordinator Tim Kelly) with the play-calling enabling us to get some of those creases in spaces to get some good yards in critical times throughout the game.”
Burkhead isn't flashy, but he's tough and plays an intelligent, determined brand of football. He has rushed for 207 yards and one touchdown and caught 14 passes for 112 yards.
He has learned how to manage injuries and get himself ready to play, even when he was predicted to miss the game by Texans coach David Culley earlier in the week.
“This time of year everybody’s got bumps and bruises, so you just do your best to be able to get out there on the field and perform the best that you can to the highest ability that you can," Burkhead said. "Our staff here, the trainers, the people in the weight room do a tremendous job just making sure we’re as good as we can be for gameday. Being a veteran in this league, I’ve learned some things to recover faster and just get my body in the best shape possible for games. I take that knowledge and approach every single day.”