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It pays to be loyal

The Texans continued to build their roster during free agency Monday, resigning tight end Mark Bruener and safety Glenn Earl.

Earl was a surprise to some because the fourth-year pro spent last year on injured reserve with a fracture of the Lisfranc (foot) joint, which he suffered in training camp. The Notre Dame product spent the season rehabbing, and the coaches say he is close to be 100 percent healthy.

Head coach Gary Kubiak said that Earl was one of the standouts of last year's camps and he thought Earl was going to have a big year before suffering the injury. Now Kubiak thinks Earl could have that type of year in 2008.

Earl, who signed a one-year deal, has recorded 31 starts since being selected by the Texans in the fourth round of the 2004 draft.

"He's been in the system for a year, so he understands the system, and he's a physical player that brings a toughness to the defense," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said.

Earl will face tough competition getting back into the starting lineup with the returns of C.C. Brown and Will Demps, but their spots aren't set in stone.

Bruener, who also joined the Texans in 2004, and has made a name for himself as a hardworking blocking tight end with invaluable leadership skills.

The 13-year veteran consistently wins the team spirit award and takes care of his business on the field day in and day. Tight ends coach Brian Pariani has remarked that Bruener is a great guy to have in the locker room.

"He's a leader downstairs for our team, and he understands there's a role on the team for those kind of players," Pariani said. "It's exciting to have him back. It'll be special to have Mark playing again for us. He helps a lot of the older players and the younger players on the team."

It's a responsibility that Bruener takes seriously, and it is heartening to see that his loyalty to the Texans is being rewarded. Bruener said last year that he wants to finish his career in Houston and the Texans want to make that happen.

In doing so, the Texans show that not everything in the NFL has to be about, "What have you done for me lately?" It can be about, "Thank you, for your continued commitment."

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