Gay back at full health at Chiefs mini-camp
Nothing was ordinary about Willie Gay Jr.'s rookie season in the NFL.
The 2020 second-round pick didn't have organized team activities to prepare for the regular season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His training camp was abbreviated, and he had to try to learn Steve Spagnuolo's defense on the fly.
Injuries in the regular-season finale and on the road to Super Bowl LV shelved him late in the year. Now, he feels fully healthy at mandatory minicamp.
"All I do know is during this offseason period with this training staff, we've been working nonstop, me and (Chiefs assistant athletic trainer) Ms. Julie (Frymyer) and all her help that she has," Gay said. "It's been a real grind and that's why I'm here today, 100 percent."
In the final game of the season, Gay suffered a high-ankle sprain. He later suffered a knee injury during build-up throughout the postseason, sidelining him for the Chiefs' second-straight Super Bowl appearance.
"I don't even know what really happened with it," Gay said. "I tore my meniscus; I don't even know if it was at practice or just walking around after."
Six months later, Gay was a full participant throughout OTAs last week.
Now with a chance to find an expanded role in the linebacking corps, health and time are to his benefit this offseason.
"Of course it was tough for us that came in last year," Gay said. "To only see the playbook for the first time during training camp, it was hard. To get that head start right now in OTAs and minicamp, it's definitely helping a lot. I'm catching on to the things that I didn't catch onto last year. I learned the basics. Now, it's the small details that make good great. It's coming along pretty good."
Gay appeared in 16 games with eight starts last year, tallying 39 tackles, one sack, three passes defended and a forced fumble, playing on 25% of the team’s snaps.
As part of his group, the Chiefs must replace Damien Wilson, though second-round pick Nick Bolton joins Gay, Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann as the team's notable contributors.
With high expectations and a chance to compete for an immediate starting job, Gay is using the remainder of the offseason to build off last year's strides.
"Really all I want to do is just my job," Gay said. "Be able to be counted on and just do what I do to the best of my ability. Whether it's tackling, whether it's covering guys, blitzing, just continue to improve each and every day on the details of plays and execute every little detail that I do have with my assignments and all."