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Andy Reid says Willie Gay Jr. is ‘getting close’ to Chiefs’ return

The second-year linebacker’s 2021 debut might come next week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs placed Willie Gay Jr. on injured reserve on September 2 — after the linebacker suffered a turf toe injury in the team’s final preseason game.

Gay’s placement on injured reserve meant that he would be out for at least the first three games of the season. On Wednesday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid provided an update on Gay’s rehab.

“He’s done a nice job with it,” said Reid. “He’s been very diligent with it, and he’s getting there. He’s getting close. That literally is day by day as we go here, especially down the stretch with this. We’ll just see how he does here as he goes forward, but he’s doing a nice job with it.”

At the time of Gay’s injury, the prevailing thought was that veteran linebacker Ben Niemann would see that time in the lineup. And though Niemann has gotten his share of plays, it has been rookie Nick Bolton as the primary stopgap.

“He did a really nice job,” said Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo of Bolton on September 16, after the Chiefs’ Week 1 win. “In the preseason games, it didn’t appear to me that in the game the game was too big for him. I saw the same thing in this game. I watch him and Matt House and [Anthony] Hitchens all work while sitting on the bench, and not much phases them. He picks it right up. He’d be one of those guys that I say that we made a little tweak, he went with it.”

Even as a rookie, Bolton has been one of the Chiefs’ better tacklers (he leads the team with 12 solo tackles), but he did struggle in coverage against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens targeted the rookie four times and converted for four receptions, per Pro Football Focus.

That coverage aspect is where the return of Gay to the lineup might be most felt.

“Willie’s a good player.” added Reid. “The guys that are playing are good players, and he’s a good player, and so the more you have in there, the better chance you have of being better, right? I’d leave it at that. You start comparing and I’m telling you that the other guys aren’t good — you can take that two different ways, and that’s not where I’m at.”

Gay can’t play against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, but we will see if he is activated for the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.