A promising NFL rookie season is now over for Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay, and it ends only days ahead of a Super Bowl LV matchup against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gay had been working through a high ankle sprain suffered in the regular season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, one that held him out of both the AFC Divisional Round against the Cleveland Browns and the AFC Championship Game versus the Buffalo Bills. Attempting to make his return for The Big Game on Sunday, Feb. 7, Gay reportedly suffered a knee injury that required surgery to repair -- per Jon Sokoloff of WCBI News -- that will send him to injured reserve.
The injury in question is a torn meniscus, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, which carries a recovery timetable of roughly four months. That gives him a shot at being available for the start of the 2021 season, barring any setbacks, but his inaugural season ultimately ends before the biggest game of his football career.
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A second-round pick of the Chiefs in April, Gay was active in all 16 regular season games and logged eight starts -- impressive when considering the presence of Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann. This is a nod to the potential of Gay, once a USA Today High School All-American before the Starville, Mississippi native went on to play for Mississippi State, where he made a name for himself en route to catching the eye of Andy Reid and Co. in Kansas City. The speedy 22-year-old was a key piece of what the Chiefs did on defense in 2020, but they'll have to wait until September to see him take the field again.
He finishes his rookie year with 39 combined tackles, three pass deflections, one sack and one forced fumble.