Willie Gay's health is very important in this contract season for Chiefs

The Chiefs linebacker can only hope he can stay healthy after the bye week to cash in on a contract season.
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

Willie Gay Jr. is feeling good these days.

Coming out of the bye in Week 10 for the Kansas City Chiefs, Gay is no longer on the team's injury report for the first time in a few weeks. Given that fellow starting linebacker Nick Bolton remains on injured reserve and with the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles coming to town, both the player and team should be very glad about that fact.

Gay is an uber-athletic linebacker who is the most physically gifted player at his position—a big statement for a loaded linebacking corps—who has enjoyed a very, very good fourth season (so far) in the National Football League. Given that his contract is up after this season, he stands to make decent money—life-changing money, to be sure—but just how much depends on his ability to stay healthy.

The Chiefs linebacker can only hope he can stay healthy after the bye week to cash in on a contract season.

Just a few weeks ago, Gay was forced to leave the team's game against the Denver Broncos in Week 8 when, in the second half, he struggled to get back to the sidelines with a lower back/tailbone injury. At the time, the Chiefs designated him as questionable to return, but he would remain out for the rest of that loss at Mile High.

The next week, Gay was once again questionable as the team prepared to fly to Frankfurt to face the Miami Dolphins, but he ended up playing through any pain and put on a solid performance despite being "questionable" once again.

Now after a full week off to recover and return, Gay is back at practice without limitations. In fact, he's not even on the report at all.

The stats don't tell the full story of Gay's emergence this season as a sideline-to-sideline force who has been a positive player in every facet of the game—from run defense to pass coverage. This season in particular, Gay has shown up much stronger as a tackler and he's been excellent in pursuit. Whether it's the talent around him or the experience catching up with him, Gay is finally looking like the player the Chiefs projected when they selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Looking back over his history, Gay has struggled to hang around for a full regular season. There have been minor injuries and even a suspension, which has forced him to miss 8 total games in the last two years after he played all 16 in his rookie campaign. But this year, Gay has shown a resolve to play through whatever has ailed him and his play or production has not suffered.

It's hard to tell if the Chiefs are going to be able to keep Gay around knowing there are other defenders to consider as well hitting free agency—from L'Jarius Sneed to Drue Tranquill to Chris Jones to Mike Danna and more. Will the Chiefs offer Gay an extension? Will he leave for bigger money? What's his potential payday?

Even if those questions are unknown at this point, Gay is doing everything he can by staying on the field as much as possible while offering the Chiefs exemplary play at his position. That's gonna matter quite a bit when the time comes.