When LB Kamu Grugier-Hill signed with the Houston Texans last year, he assumed it would be a prove-it year.
Despite missing four games last year, Grugier-Hill set career highs in tackles (106), sacks (3.0), quarterback hits (five) and passes defensed. He also led the team with 13 tackles for loss on the season, tying for the NFL lead among inside linebackers.
One year later, he decided to stay in Houston, re-signing with the Texans now led by Head Coach Lovie Smith.
"If there was a different head coach, I don't know if that would have been the same thing," Grugier-Hill said. "But for them (Lovie Smith, LB Coach Miles Smith) to be back and have the same guys, Nick (Caserio), Lovie and all of those guys, I'm just excited."
Christian Kirksey agrees.
The veteran linebacker also could have signed elsewhere during free agency. After playing for Lovie Smith as defensive coordinator last year, Kirksey saw the potential of what the Texans could become.
"We had flashes of being a good team, but the good teams in this league do the right things consistently, and we weren't consistent last year," Kirksey said. "It's exciting to see those flashes and see what we can potentially be. I believe in the guys. I believe that we're a good group that meshes well on and off the field. I think we have a bunch of solid players that have their head on the correct way that's all about ball and that's all about getting better and working together to achieve a common goal, and that's to bring Houston football back to what we all know, and that's winning football."
Houston's defense racked up 17 interceptions, tied for third-highest in franchise history, and forced an average of 1.47 takeaways per game last year. When the season was over, Grugier-Hill and Kirksey were among 37 players on the roster that were new to the team in 2021, including six rookies (five draft picks) and 31 veteran acquisitions. Smith had left an impression on many in the locker room.
"I think the relationship that was built with Lovie (Smith), even offensive guys, Lovie would talk to anybody, not just the defense," Kirksey said. "I think that's where it started. To see how guys meshed well with Lovie, and you know his track record. You know of him being in the league. In my opinion, he's a legend at coaching. We all know his resume. I think part of it is that Lovie came back and I have that relationship with him, and I really can only speak for myself, but I assume the other guys may think that as well, that he's a great person, great coach, and you want to be a part of that."
The Texans began their offseason workout program on Monday at NRG Stadium.