Willie Gay’s availability remains nebulous for KC Chiefs

Oct 11, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 40-22. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 40-22. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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The running count is now at six days. That’s how long it has been since Willie Gay Jr. left practice at Missouri Western State University to allow the training staff of the K.C. Chiefs to tend to a head injury of some magnitude, one that has left him in the team’s concussion protocol ever since. And despite being at nearly a week, no further details have emerged about how he’s progressing or feeling.

In some ways, the scariest sort of injury a player can have in the National Football League is a concussion, not only because head/brain injuries are horrible in and of themselves, but any sort of recovery time in the short-term is so nebulous. Chiefs Kingdom has seen this first hand as some players can return very quickly from a scary hit to the helmet while others are never the same after such an incident.

During the 2020 postseason, the Chiefs watched both cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and quarterback Patrick Mahomes both return from the league’s concussion protocol within a week with neither player missing a game. Yet Mitch Morse is an example of a great player at his position who unfortunately dealt with head injuries that lingered, making it tough for the franchise to count on him.

Willie Gay Jr. remains out indefinitely in the concussion protocol.

What does all of this mean for Gay? It’s easy to understand either side of the coin from the Chiefs’ perspective. So far in training camp, Gay has looked the part of the second-year sensation at linebacker, the sort of difference maker in the heart of the Chiefs defense that’s been lacking since Derrick Johnson manned the middle. After a frustrating first season that saw him on the field only 25 percent of the time, Gay looked like he was able to make the leap and cement a significant role for ’21.

At this point, Gay has missed every padded practice for the Chiefs which means every strong showing has been in t-shirt and shorts. Missing a full week of early August practices in which the team is really grinding means he’s missed out on some key time to develop. If the Chiefs are wanting him to grow more in practice, then the time missed could signal that his head injury is really serious.

At the same time, it’s also possible the Chiefs are taking things very slowly with Gay. If they think he’s ready for the role in front of him, then there’s no reason to make excessive demands on him in light of such an injury. The time missed could be more about the Chiefs playing it safe than anything else. There’s just no way of knowing.

Hopefully we will see Gay back on the field sooner than later so questions can be answered and the talented linebacker can be that much more ready for what could be a breakout season. Then again, nothing is worth rushing his return in the wake of something so nebulous and scary as a concussion or head injury of any kind. That’s what makes all of this so difficult to read.

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