Anthony Hitchens has Advice for Willie Gay Jr., Other Rookies

Joe Andrews

With the cancellation of preseason competition, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens has spent time brainstorming secondary options to prepare younger teammates for the 2020 season.

Hitchens discussed the concepts, and how he’s using them to mentor rookies like linebacker Willie Gay Jr., during a virtual press conference Thursday.

"Me being the vet, I’m just trying to take everyone under my wings and show them there are different ways to get better," Hitchens said. "Once you get out there on the field, it’s like I’ve schemed them already, I’ve seen that on film, I’ve already walked through this, I’ve seen this in the classroom already."

Hitchens is in the midst of his seventh NFL Training Camp and recognizes the impact COVID-19 is leaving on the season.

He’s stressed the importance of staying ahead of the game in light of this year’s changes to Gay. The two began exchanging dialogue shortly after the NFL Draft.

"It’s just getting the playbook," Hitchens said. "So when you get out there, you’re going to see it already, visualize it, watch film. We got so much film on our iPads. You can watch so many tapes from years past. Even Spags, back with the Giants, we got tape on that. You just got to watch film, you got to do everything possible that you can do without running out there and hitting people and getting the physical reps."

Gay expressed the catch-up mentality he’ll have to carry throughout camp in a press conference on July 25. He shares the ideology with undrafted rookies Bryan Wright and Omari Cobb.

Since there aren’t preseason games, Hitchens said the three rookies will have to learn to pay attention to the minor details.

"There's a lot of different ways you can get ready for a game without throwing your body and hitting people in practice," Hitchens said. "It starts in the meeting room, walkthroughs, just repetition. That’s how we got better last year, we got to practice early, we did walkthroughs. You can see a lot in slow motion you don’t have to be going a hundred miles per hour to get better."

Gay is the only rookie linebacker that has the chance to compete for significant playing time this season.

He’s expected to slide into a SAM or WILL spot depending on his progression through camp. Hitchens said the training camp growth of Gay and other younger Chiefs athletes will depend on their adjustment to a lack of live-action, and the ability to learn from older teammates.

"There are other ways to get better and we have a lot of vets on this team, so we got to use that as an advantage and prove these young guys wrong," Hitchens said.