ASHBURN — As his press conference concluded Wednesday, Washington coach Ron Rivera told reporters to be nice to “Clubber Lang.” He then motioned to the side, and yelled, ‘Yo, Rocky, your turn!”
Sure enough, Taylor Heinicke showed up with a bandage above his eye— looking like he had just gone 12 rounds. The reality was that the Washington quarterback received seven stitches after a teammate accidentally elbowed him during practice. He chipped his tooth, too.
“Football season started pretty early for me,” Heinicke said.
The bandage, however, wasn’t the only thing different about Heinicke’s appearance. After gaining 15 pounds in the offseason, Heinicke is noticeably bulkier compared to just a few months ago, when the scrawny, undersized quarterback dazzled in Washington’s wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The weight increase was intentional — not the result of Heinicke scarfing down fried and junk food after getting a taste of being in the NFL’s limelight. Rather, Heinicke said he added “good weight” in an attempt to become more durable.
When Heinicke is on the field, he can be electric. But the 28-year-old has a riddled injury history: He separated his shoulder against the Buccaneers last year. And when with the Panthers in 2018, he suffered a season-ending elbow injury just after he was named the starter with Cam Newton injured.
For those keeping track at home, Heinicke has started two games in his NFL career (including the playoffs). He’s gotten hurt in both.
“I just felt like every time I go out on that field for some reason something happens,” said Heinicke, who is 6-feet. “So that was the biggest point of concern this offseason and I felt like I kind of checked that box off.”
Heinicke likely won’t start for Washington in 2021. After all, the team brought in journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year, $10 million deal in March. But for the first time since entering the league in 2015, the Old Dominion product said he feels a sense of security. Washington gave Heinicke a two-year, $4 million deal for his late-season success. “This is this first year where I feel like I have two feet in the door so to speak,” said Heinicke, who joined Washington last December following stints with four other teams.
With a contract secured, Heinike could focus on implementing his offseason plan. To gain weight, Heinicke mapped out a detailed regime.
First, he said, there were the smoothies. Heinicke began each morning with a protein shake and then went on a “nice long walk.” When he got back, it was time for another protein shake — or something healthy like oatmeal.
Then, there was the gym. Heinicke said he worked out five, six days per week — pumping iron, but not getting too out of control. “You didn’t have to lift heavy,” he said.
And, of course, there was the grilling. Heinicke added a new hobby, saying he got “really into” grilling. He cooked chicken, steaks, burgers “and stuff like that.” If he ate carbs, he made sure they were “good” ones. He even looked up recipes for new meals.
As for the difference, Heinicke said the added pounds haven’t affected his mobility. A key part of Heinicke’s game is extending plays with his legs, like when he dove for the end zone and scored in Washington’s playoff loss.
That, coincidentally, was the play that Heinicke busted his shoulder. Heinicke said he also has to improve on playing smarter to avoid taking unnecessary hits. Heinicke said he doesn’t regret the play, but if it were the regular season, he’d step out of bounds.
“I was on the other side – I wasn’t playing ball for a year and I thought I was done,” Heinicke said. “Once I got that contract and everything I kind of dove in cannonball style and wanted to make this year good.”