Chiefs Rookie Undergoes ‘Emergency’ Surgery, Ruled out for Super Bowl

Willie Gay Chiefs

Getty Chiefs LB Willie Gay started eight games during his rookie season in 2020.

Despite making only six selections in last April’s NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs were fortunate to get notable contributions from four rookies in 2020, including second-round pick Willie Gay Jr.

Unfortunately, the 22-year-old linebacker suffered a torn meniscus during Thursday’s practice and was forced to undergo “emergency” surgery to repair his knee, according to Jon Sokoloff, who covers Gay’s alma mater Mississippi State for WCBI News. As a result, Gay will now miss Super Bowl LV next Sunday.

On Friday morning, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed the news, suggesting Gay will need approximately four months for the ailing knee to heal. The Chiefs also officially listed Gay out of the game on its injury report on Friday.

While a meniscus tear is not a life-threatening injury, the nature of how Gay suffered the injury is unclear, though “emergency” was likely used in reference to the timing of the surgery, which took place immediately after practice, per Sokoloff.

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Gay Was Already Recovering From a High Ankle Sprain

During his postpractice press conference with the media on Thursday afternoon, head coach Andy Reid provided a limited injury update, briefly sharing that left tackle Eric Fisher (torn Achilles) was the only Chiefs player not to practice. Prior to the torn meniscus, Gay was also still battling back from a high ankle sprain suffered early in Week 17.

The first-year linebacker had been sidelined ever since, missing both the AFC Divisional Round and last weekend’s AFC Championship, but did practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Thursday prior to his knee giving out. Given his initial timetable for recovery was set at two to four weeks, it appeared the Chiefs were playing it safe with the young defender.

After practice on Thursday, Gay took to Twitter to follow up on an encouraging message he posted following the team’s second straight AFC title victory on Sunday.

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Gay Could Return for Offseason Workouts in Late April

Considered a raw prospect coming out of college, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo brought Gay along slowly as the season progressed. The second-rounder was calling into spot duty on multiple occasions when veteran starters Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson were sidelined. In total, Gay finishes his inaugural NFL campaign with 39 combined tackles, three pass breakups, 1.0 sack and a forced fumble in eight starts across 16 games.

With Wilson and Ben Niemann both impending free agents this offseason, and Hitchens viewed as a potential cap casualty due to his $10.7 million cap hit next season, Gay could be in for a major bump in snaps in 2021.

A four-month recovery puts him on track for a return to football activities in late April, shortly after Kansas City will begin its offseason workout program on April 19.


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!