The Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-21 loss to the Los Angles Chargers in Week 17 didn’t affect the team’s standing, but a couple of injuries sustained during the game could have a more lasting impact heading into the playoffs.
Cornerback DeAndre Baker saw his season cut short after breaking his femur early in the third quarter, which will keep him out of action until next spring or summer following successful surgery on Sunday. However, another young defender, rookie linebacker Willie Gay, could still take the field again after suffering a high ankle sprain early in the game.
According to a report from The Kansas City Star on Monday, the 2020 second-round pick is expected to miss two to four weeks nursing his injured ankle.
Chiefs rookie linebacker Willie Gay has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, a source tells me. He's looking at a 2-4 week recovery.
— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) January 4, 2021
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Willie Gay Could Still Return for Playoffs
While the recovery timetable for the highly touted rookie isn’t ideal, it doesn’t rule him out of his first postseason appearance quite yet.
If Gay heals quickly and can return on the front side of the two-week window, he could play in the team’s AFC Divisional Round matchup on January 16 or 17. Should Kansas City advance, they could play in their third-straight AFC Championship Game three weeks from now and a second consecutive Super Bowl five weeks from now.
Coming off of a career-high 49 defensive snaps and nine total tackles in Week 16 while filling in for starters Anthony Hitchens (reserve/COVID list) and Damien Wilson (knee), the 22-year-old sustained the ankle injury on just his second defensive snap on Sunday. Gay was the victim of friendly fire while chasing down a ball carrier before being run into by teammate Darius Harris and removed from the season finale.
Steve Spagnuolo Evaluates Gay’s Performance
Following his first significant action against the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo praised the linebacker’s raw traits, but also acknowledged there is still plenty of room to grow.
“What Willie does is he plays fast,” Spagnuolo told reporters on December 31, via Chiefs Wire. “He plays fast and he’s physical and that’s what you want in your linebackers. There’s still a learning curve here, I think that’s true of anybody that plays that particular position in Year 1. And again, I go back to not having the offseason and whatnot, but we’re getting him caught up. He’s certainly going to see a lot of football now, and that’s a good thing for him.”
Despite not seeing the field consistently, especially early on in his rookie campaign, Gay carved out a role on special teams while adjusting to the speed of NFL offenses.
In 16 games, including starts in four of Kansas City’s final five games, the Mississippi State product notched 39 combined tackles, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and 1.0 sack.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!