Bernardrick McKinney might not need to worry about the small things anymore, but he made sure not to forget one small item before reporting to training camp last week.
“You can’t forget a toothbrush,” he said.
The Texans’ inside linebacker signed a new five-year, $51.16 million deal with the team and will help to lead a defense that finished as the top unit in the league in 2016 before falling to No. 20 last season.
“It’s an honor to be able to play under (Coach O’Brien), McKinney said. “They gave me a chance from college and it took me a long time for me to be able to understand the defense, but it’s unbelievable for them to give me the opportunity to be able to play.”
Originally a second-round pick, McKinney has racked up nearly 300 tackles, made nine sacks and forced a pair of fumbles in 46 regular season and three playoff games his four years in Houston.
A season ago, he ranked 50th with 62 solo tackles and made 95 combined tackles, good for 30th in the league.
“He’s a good player, good teammate, he kind of has everything we’re looking for in a player,” O’Brien said. “He fills his role very well and he has a passion for what he’s doing and we’re glad to have him.”
This year, McKinney will earn $10.163 million in total, with a $1.163 million base salary, $3.75 million signing bonus and $5.25 million roster bonus. He’ll earn a $6 million base salary in 2019 and 2020 with that number jumping to $7 million in 2021, $8.75 in 2022 and $9.5 in 2023.
“I get a chance to take care of my family, that was my dream,” McKinney said. “It’s good that the coaches say I can be a Pro Bowl player, but my job is to get the defense going and be a Pro Bowler on this team.”
In early March, the Texans hired Luke Richesson as the new senior director of sports performance, who spent six seasons with the Denver Broncos and is widely respected across the league.
McKinney said Richesson has done a good job with extra stretching and maintaining his weight. The linebacker is just under 260 pounds but says he feels faster than ever.
Playing behind an experience defensive line has helped his progression as a player as well. Most of the defensive front, including D.J. Reader, J.J. Watt, Joel Heath and Jadeveon Clowney all played significant roles for Houston in past seasons.
O’Brien said his position between the defensive line and secondary, McKinney is forced into a leadership position, communicating calls to the back and the front end of the defense, and he hasn’t missed a beat.
McKinney has embraced the role.
“I’ve been a leader all my life, my dad taught that to me,” he said. “I played quarterback in high school and inside in college and being a leader just came natural to me.”