There is a long list of negatives from this week super Bowl LV for Kansas City Chiefs, but a story that was buried was rookie linebacker Willie Gay Jr.’s knee injury during the training week. It required surgery and there had been no official update all offseason on Gay’s recovery.
That was the case until Thursday, when Gay spoke to media members following the team’s ninth organized team activity (OTA) practice. He was able to calm the Chiefs fans’ concerns, but did not set the exact record of how his injury occurred.
“I do not even know what really happened to it,” Gay admitted. “I tore my meniscus; I do not know if it was in practice or if it happened when I was walking around. All I know is that during this offseason period with the training staff, we have been working non-stop. Me, [assistant athletic trainer Julie Frymyer] and all her help, it has been a true grind. That’s why I’m here today, 100%. ”
100% is one strong description to use and it’s hard to imagine a player would throw it out at this point in the offseason unless he really believed it.
It was good to hear that Gay is feeling better physically, but it is not just the knee that is feeling better. He happened to enter the NFL during one of its most unique seasons due to COVID-19, and there was a clear disadvantage for rookies given last year’s virtual offseason.
This year, he notes the benefits of normal personal practice and meetings.
“It was obviously hard for us who came in last year,” he confirmed. “It was difficult to only see the playbook for the first time during the training camp. Getting this lead right now in OTAs and minicamp certainly helps a lot. I catch things that I did not catch last year. I learned the basics, now it’s the little details that do well. It’s coming pretty well. ”
Gay is not the only young and talented linebacker at Chiefs. One year after choosing Gay in the second round in 2020 NFL Draft, the team used its second second round to take on another SEC linebacker: Missouri Nick Bolton.
They may be competing with each other for snaps in 2021, but their position gives them the chance to play with each other in the long run. They need to build a good relationship to make it work best and they have a good start in that regard.
“We talk every day,” Gay said of his and Bolton’s relationship. “I’m not a rookie, but it’s my second year and it’s his first year; we are both still fresh in this thing. I tell him I want to teach him the game as much as I can because I still learn from guys like Hitch, Ben, Dorian and all the older guys. Whatever I learn, I pass it on to him; no matter what I’ve been through, I pass it on to him and we continue to be close … it’s a good connection we have. ”
The hope is that Gay and Bolton can translate their new friendship into an effective linebacker duo on the spot. It has been the weakest position in defense in recent seasons, and the Chiefs’ draft strategy reflects their recognition.
The defense needs his athleticism in more than the 25% of snaps he played last season. Ideally, he’s on the field more in 2021 – and this update on how he feels physically and mentally is a good start for that.