Second-year linebacker Willie Gay returned to practice for the first time since landing on injured reserve, according to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
“As far as the injuries go, Willie (Gay) as you know is returning to practice,” Reid said during his Wednesday press conference.
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Reid also gave extended info on Gay when asked what his involvement would be in practice following his IR stint.
“I don’t know that. We’ll get him out there and see what he can do,” Reid said. “It looks like he’s running around pretty good right now, so we’ve just got to see when it comes to the football part of it.”
Gay returning to practice opens his 21-day window to be activated from injured reserve. It also makes him eligible, if healthy enough, to play in Kansas City’s Week 5 game against Buffalo.
Gay Injured During Preseason
During his absence, Gay’s role was filled by rookie linebacker Nick Bolton as well as veteran Ben Niemann. However, they struggled to perform at a high level during the first month of the regular season.
Bolton registered a 46.8 overall grade from PFF, with a 50.0 run defense grade, 59.3 pass-rush grade, and 47.5 coverage grade through the first four weeks of the regular season. As for Niemann, he registered a 43.1 overall grade, 32.8 run defense grade, 65.0 pass-rush grade, and a 50.5 coverage grade. Their struggles, along with poor performances from other positional groups on defense, have led to the Chiefs’ defense being one of the worst units in the NFL this season.
Kansas City’s defense ranks 31st in the league in total points allowed through four weeks (125), 30th in rushing yards allowed (584), and 27th in passing yards allowed (1,167), according to ESPN. They are also 32nd in yards per carry allowed (5.4), and 30th in average yards per completion (8.8).
Most recently, they were carved up by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4, who had second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts throw for a career-high 387 yards and two touchdowns with zero turnovers. The Eagles’ offense scored a total of 30 points against Kansas City in that game, despite their offense only averaging 23.5 points per game through four weeks of regular-season play, according to ESPN.
Gay’s Career To-Date
Coming out of Mississippi State, Gay was selected as a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Chiefs. As a rookie, he played in all 16 regular-season games, eight of which he started, per Pro Football Reference, and accumulated 29 tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack while playing 25% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Gay was inactive for Kansas City’s first two playoffs games during the 2021 postseason due to an ankle injury. He never healed in time for Super Bowl LV, however, as he suffered a torn meniscus while recovering from the ankle injury and was placed on injured reserve on February 6, per Tucker D. Franklin of Arrowhead Report.