Chiefs Reveal Discouraging Injury Timetable for LB Willie Gay

Getty Willie Gay Jr. of the Kansas City Chiefs blocks Darryl Johnson of the Buffalo Bills on a kickoff during the second half at Bills Stadium on October 19, 2020.

We knew Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Willie Gay had suffered a toe injury during the team’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Vikings. Now we know how long he will be sidelined.

Gay has been placed on injured reserve, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. That means he will be sidelined for at least the first three games of the regular season.

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Who Will Replace Gay?

With Gay — who was a projected starter on the Chiefs defense in Week 1 — sidelined for at least the first three weeks of the regular season, Kansas City will likely look to one rookie to fill the void left by the second-year linebacker: Nick Bolton. As a second-round pick by the Chiefs this year, Bolton has started off hot this summer, impressing coaches despite taking on a workload not typical for a rookie in the NFL.

“He’s playing multiple, multiple, multiple spots, but he’s doing a really good job,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said of Bolton on August 4. “Sometimes when that happens, you get the brain cluttered, it ties up their feet a little bit, he doesn’t seem to do that. He doesn’t know everything mentally right now, but he’s still making a lot of plays out there.”

Veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens spoke of both Gay and Bolton this summer in regards to the improvements they’ve made during their time with the team.

“They’re chasing improvement every day and every week,” Hitchens said on August 24. “From the first week they’ve been here to now, they’re making their own calls, they’re relying on me less and less. So, I just feel like more guys that can get like that in the room, the better off we can be. When you have a higher level of expectation out of everyone in the room, it raises everybody up. So, the more good guys we get in the room that work hard and are good ball players, everyone plays their best ball and that’s how we move forward.”

Bolton, along with veterans Dorian O’Daniel and Ben Niemann, will do their part in performing well alongside Hitchens in the middle of Kansas City’s defense until Gay is healthy enough to return.

Kansas City will play the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Los Angeles Chargers during Gay’s absence.

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 percent 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.


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