Why Texans fans should relax about LT Laremy Tunsil’s OTA attendance

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The Houston Texans rebuild is full steam ahead on the football front. After a noisy offseason that included hiring new coach Lovie Smith, pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns, and a very successful draft, Houston finally turns their attention to football.

June marks the beginning of organized team activities which, by virtue of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, are voluntary activities. For everything said about the Texans having a “culture-driven” rebuild, it appears to be paying immediate dividends. Almost every Houston player is present — 95% at least.

Davis Mills has emerged as a vocal and present leader of the offense. Established veterans like Brandin Cooks and Maliek Collins are there, even though their starting jobs are a given. Christian Kirksey is even there to rave about the younger linebackers to the media.

This has left one the one absence to stand out as particularly stark. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, the highest compensated player on the team, is not present for these practices. Tunsil played in only five games in 2021 and underwent a thumb surgery that caused him to miss most of the season. This was despite original speculation he would be ready to play after a few weeks.

Smith has maintained this isn’t an issue that he’s worried about. Tunsil is one of the most established players on the team and voluntary practices are labeled as voluntary for that exact reason.

However, between the rest of the team’s stout presence at these events and Tunsil’s questionable absence during the dreadful 4-13 campaign fans are upset. In a slow news cycle, this story has gained more attention than it probably should. The Texans are a bad team that everyone wants to see improve and it’s not a surprise there’s some dismay over his lack of participation.

Houston fans need to relax.

There are a number of reasons not to panic about Tunsil’s no-show. To begin, this is a different era in the NFL. More and more teams are comfortable allowing their professionals to act as professionals and enjoy their off-season as such. Notoriously, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay has gone as far as to sit most of his starters for the entire preseason.

Established veterans get plenty of work during the late summer and have enough experience to get by without every possible practice rep. With two Pro Bowl appearances and 77 career starts at the left tackle position, Tunsil more than qualifies to be treated with the same criteria.

The second reason is that Tunsil’s play on the offensive line will not be dependent on timing as much as it will performance and talent. The left tackle position is responsible for blocking their assignment on running plays and dealing with edge rushers on passing downs. They don’t have the responsibility of calling out coverages like a center or the need to practice timing like a pulling guard might.

Despite any jokes about “Tunsilitis” and his tendency for false starts, as long as the veteran left tackle is able to work out good starting cadence with the rest of the offensive line it’s going to be fine. Houston already knows that Tunsil has the requisite talent and body of work that he can perform at a high level when called upon.

Finally, despite any trade rumors or allegations, Tunsil wants to be a Houston Texan. If No. 78 wanted to force a trade publicly while the Texans were rebuilding, he more than had the opportunity this past offseason. Instead, the team chose to restructure his contract and all but guarantee another two years on the roster.

Fans should be excited about the present opportunities for players like Charlie Heck and even Kenyon Green while Tunsil enjoys his vacation. The Texans may ultimately be a deeper and better football time because of how this situation has played out.

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