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After the Washington Commanders beat the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football last week, starting quarterback Carson Wentz told backup Taylor Heinicke he needed to be ready for the next game.
Wentz knew something was wrong with a finger on his throwing hand. And, sure enough, he had surgery earlier this week to set a fracture.
That means it’s time for a Heinicke in D.C.
So drink up because this could be a fun experience.
You’ll recall Taylor Heinicke’s story: Not big enough to play major college football, so Old Dominion it was. Not good enough to be drafted so he signed as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota. And then, not good enough to stick with the Vikings, so he was cut.
Stints with the Patriots, Texans, Panthers and the mighty St. Louis BattleHawks of the defunct XFL followed.
In December of 2020 while he was completing his engineering degree at ODU, the Washington Football Team called and offered to sign him to their practice squad. And within a month, because Dwayne Haskins was benched and Alex Smith was injured, Heinicke started a playoff game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady threw for 386 yards in that game. Heinicke threw for a respectable 301.
Taylor Heinicke Has 22 Career Touchdown Passes
He wasn’t supposed to the Washington QB last year. That was supposed to be Ryan Fitzpatrick after he signed as a free agent and started the season opener.
But Fitz blew out his hip in that opener. And Heinicke started 15 games for coach Ron Rivera.
“I just feel like I’m head and shoulders above of where I was at that point,” Heinicke said Wednesday.
“I think the biggest thing I took away from last year was just the experience.” Heinicke then added: “I think the more reps you get in live games, the more comfortable you get. Starting 15 games last year, I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident in what I need to do to win and what not to do, to lose.
“Obviously last year I threw 15 picks and that’s unacceptable. That’s the easiest way to lose games is turn the ball over.”
Whatever Heinicke is lacking on his resume, it is not confidence. The Commanders are not a good team with a 2-4 record but as they prepare for the Green Bay Packers, Heinicke said, “I like our chances.”
You’ll read everywhere how Heinicke wasn’t the organization’s pick to start this year because his arm is not strong enough and he cannot make every throw like elite quarterbacks can. Heinicke has functional ears. He’s heard this, too.
And he says he’s done something about it.
“There’s a couple things last year that I knew I needed to work on, whether it’s footwork or arm strength,” Heinicke said. “I was really just kind of using my arm last year. Wasn’t really getting my hips into it at times. I think that’s where you get all your power from.
“I’ve tried to use my hips a lot more. It’s kind of like a golf swing. It’s pretty much the same exact thing as a golf swing. Golfed a lot and tried to work on those mechanics. That was my offseason.”
The guy worked on his mechanics by playing golf.
Yes, I’m rooting for him.
Russell Wilson Has Wolverine Blood
Russell Wilson was sore and even limping a little bit late Monday night. This was after Wilson had strained his hamstring, eventually requiring an MRI Tuesday. The hamstring strain had Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett declaring the quarterback day-to-day.
Wilson suffered the injury in the fourth quarter Monday. But when he spoke with reporters on Wednesday he was no longer limping and seemingly in great spirits.
”I heal quick,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if it’s Wolverine’s blood or what. But I feel better.”
Wilson will be evaluated through the week to gauge his participation level in practices as well as his availability for Sunday’s game against the Jets at Empower Field at Mile High. But let’s just say his history suggests he’s playing.
Because whatever criticism can be leveled at Wilson — and lately it has come in all shapes and forms from all quarters — the guy is a warrior. He shows up for game day.
Wilson Has Thrown 5 Touchdown Passes This Fall
Russell Wilson did not miss a game from his rookie season in 2012 to 2020. That’s 144 consecutive starts.
And, I remind you, Wilson played behind terrible offensive lines. He missed two games last season with a comminuted fracture-dislocation of the proximal interphalangeal joint (that’s the first time those words have appeared on OutKick).
So, yeah, he had an injured finger in his throwing hand that was supposed to take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Wilson missed only three games.
The point is the guy does indeed heal quickly and he is trying to keep it that way by playing Sunday.
”I’m hoping so,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can to get ready to roll. So, that’s always my mentality.”
Mahomes Learns Appreciation For Success
Patrick Mahomes won the MVP award his second season in the NFL in 2018. He was all of 23 years old.
He won the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2019 season and was named the Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes was 24.
And when the Chiefs went back to the Super Bowl in 2020, Mahomes obviously was now only 25.
So it’s understandable that a player who experienced such gargantuan success so early in his career got to feel the whole MVP and Super Bowl things was part of the annual deal. That, perhaps, didn’t give him the kind of appreciation for those accomplishments they merited.
“Yeah, I think I would appreciate it more now than I did back when I was young,” Mahomes, crusty and wily at 27 years old said Wednesday. “That and winning the MVP early in my career, I think I just kind of thought that’s just what you did. You went out there and played football for coach [Andy] Reid and you win the MVP, and you win Super Bowls.”
Maybe Tom Brady and Joe Montana went to the Super Bowl every other year and a bunch of championship or MVP awards, but other mortals not so much. And Mahomes, whose team is 4-2, is starting to understand that.
“Now I see what the grind and being in there every single day and not succeeding and not winning the Super Bowl is like,” Mahomes said. “I think if I had the chance to go out there and win another one, I think I’ll appreciate it even more.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero