Former Houston Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham waived after Week 12 suspension

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Texans coach addresses illnesses at team facility
In the days before Zach Cunningham's suspension for a late COVID test, head coach David Culley had to address why mid-week practice was called off before the Colts game.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Texans are parting ways with linebacker Zach Cunningham days after the team suspended him for its Week 12 loss against Indianapolis.

In addressing the now-former Texan's absence on Sunday, head coach David Culley said Cunningham was late for a scheduled COVID-19 test, and the sidelining was based on standards within the club.

On Wednesday, in the wake of placing Cunningham on waivers, Culley mentioned the club's standards once again as part of letting him go.

"We have standards and I didn't feel like those standards have been met consistently. I felt like I made a decision that was best for the team. This is about the team. This isn't about any individuals," Culley told reporters.

Editor's note: The video above is from a Dec. 1, 2021, story on Texans in-person activities being called off ahead of their Colts loss.

When asked whether this was also an on-field production issue, Culley said, "It has nothing to do with production, it has something to do strictly with not meeting our standards that we have here. He didn't meet those."

Cunningham's divorce from Houston comes a season removed from a four-year, $58 million extension he signed ahead of what's become a 2-10 season in 2021. In 2020, he led the league in tackles.

The 27-year-old was drafted by the Texans in the second round of the 2017 draft. He has logged 67 tackles and one forced fumble so far this season.

For the Texans, waiving Cunningham marks Houston's latest move separating them from a high-priced star not too long after a contract extension.

Whitney Mercilus, who signed a $53.5 million extension in 2019, was released this past October.

While not officially released or traded by the team, star QB Deshaun Watson, who signed a $177.5 million extension that kicked in this season, has become relatively absent on Texans' game days as his legal issues play out.

Houston hosts the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday in Week 13.

ESPN contributed to this story.