HOUSTON – Bernard Pollard is determined to make the most of his fresh start in Houston.
Cut by Kansas City before last season, Pollard signed with the Texans a month later and helped transform their defense into one of the league's best over the last 13 games of the season.
Before he arrived in Houston, though, the fifth-year safety had to reconcile his bitterness toward the Chiefs and tone down his loudmouth demeanor. He started all 16 games and led Kansas City with 98 tackles in 2008, then never got a clear explanation why he was released.
Pollard accused the Chiefs of bad-mouthing him as he sought another team. But he also took responsibility for some of his words and actions during his three seasons in Kansas City and worked hard to change his personality.
"I definitely had to re-evaluate myself, I re-evaluated things that I did, I re-evaluated things I said," Pollard said. "I had to look in the mirror, and it was the best thing for me."
The Texans were injury-depleted in the secondary at the time, and general manager Rick Smith was intrigued by Pollard, a fellow Purdue graduate. Smith heard stories about Pollard's brash attitude, but said Pollard reassured him during about two weeks worth of phone conversations.
"Bernard wears his emotions on his sleeve, and there's nothing wrong with that," Smith said. "It's just that you have to be aware of how you come off to people and sometimes, personalities clash. I think that's what the situation was (in Kansas City).
"You've got to take the good with the bad with this guy, in terms of his volatility and his aggressiveness," Smith said. "He's done a good job of channeling that in a positive way since he's been here."
Pollard started the final 13 games for the Texans in 2009 and finished third on the team with 102 tackles. He intercepted four passes and returned one 70 yards for his first career touchdown. Houston ranked fourth in total defense (299 yards per game) and second in rushing defense (84.3 yards per game) over that stretch.
Defensive backs coach David Gibbs held the same position in Kansas City from 2006-08, Pollard's first three NFL seasons. Gibbs saw a more polished and refined Pollard last season in Houston.
"He played really well, probably the best football of his young career," Gibbs said. "When he was younger, he was ornery. But defensive guys sometimes have that personality and he's matured as a man and matured as a player."
Pollard is one of the most vocal Texans at training camp, constantly offering advice to projected starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin, who have less than a year of NFL experience between them. He'll trash-talk and mix it up with offensive players, too, and he instigated a shoving match on a steamy morning practice this week.
Pollard was trying to strip the ball from rookie running back Ben Tate, and center Chris Myers pushed Pollard away. Right tackle Eric Winston, almost 100 pounds heavier, intervened and Pollard shoved back.
The two were joking about the melee later, and Pollard vowed to be a model teammate with the Texans.
"These guys are now my family," he said. "We're going to get into it, we're going to have our battles. I mean, it's hot out here. Tempers flare. But at the end of the day, we keep everything on the field. Once we get out of here, if anything ever happened to them, I'd want to be the first person they'd call. I'd be right there."
Pollard said he's motivated every day by his release from the Chiefs, and the faith that coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans have put in him. Instead of one chip on his shoulder, Pollard jokes that he has a full bag.
"In life, a lot of people don't get second chances. You screw up, or something's taken away from you and sometimes it never comes back around," he said. "My second chance came around, and I played and God was watching.
"That door was closed in Kansas City," he said. "This is a new beginning for me, and for my family. I'm humbled and grateful for what's been done and I'm going to be here to show coach Kubiak and Rick and all of them that you guys made a good decision. I will not let them down."
NOTES: LB Brian Cushing sat out Wednesday morning's practice for what Kubiak deemed "personal business." Kubiak said Cushing's absence was expected and was "no big deal." ... The Texans set out a miniature pink tricycle as a joke on rookie kick returner Trindon Holliday, the NFL's shortest player at 5-foot-5. Holliday squeezed onto the tricycle and briefly rode it on the sideline at the end of practice.