Washington QB Taylor Heinicke activated from covid-19 list as Cowboys game looms – The Washington Post

Science & Technology

After missing a week with the coronavirus, Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke was activated from the reserve/covid-19 list and returned to practice Thursday, putting him on track to start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
The team also activated linebacker David Mayo, rookie safety Darrick Forrest and practice squad tight end Temarrick Hemingway from the covid-19 list, leaving only nine players in the protocols after it had 25 last week. (Practice squad guard Zack Bailey was the lone addition to the protocols Thursday.)
In the wake of Heinicke’s return, the team released quarterback Jordan Ta’amu from the practice squad, and in the coming days it could make even more moves at the position; Heinicke’s backup, Kyle Allen, was placed in the protocols Dec. 15 and could test out before his 10-day isolation ends this weekend.
Heinicke’s return comes at a critical juncture in Washington’s season as it pushes for a playoff spot, the chances for which have diminished but are still viable with three divisional matchups remaining: Sunday at Dallas, followed by a rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles at home and the season finale against the New York Giants on the road.
He tested positive for the coronavirus last Thursday, and the team immediately plucked Garrett Gilbert from the New England Patriots’ practice squad as a replacement. On just four days of practice, Gilbert started for Washington in Tuesday’s loss in Philadelphia while Heinicke watched from home, with the game plan in front of him, as he dealt with a host of symptoms.
“It sucked,” Heinicke said Thursday. “… I felt fine the first couple of days, and then the symptoms really started coming in. It sucked there for a little bit, but I’m happy to be back now. That’s never fun, sitting at home and watching all your guys go out and play a game and you can’t do anything about it or help them or anything. It’s kind of a helpless feeling, but I’m just happy to be back now.”
Heinicke said he experienced a scratchy throat and a runny nose, along with body aches, headaches and shortness of breath. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that the symptoms dissipated, and after he tested negative for the coronavirus twice that day, he was cleared for a return.
“I tried to do some laundry, and I put all the dry clothes in a little hamper bin and walked to my living room,” he said. “It was 20 steps, and I was out of breath. Had headaches and stuff like that, but finally it went away yesterday. Just happy to be back.”
As injuries and losses mount, Ron Rivera remains fixed on getting WFT back to the playoffs
Washington is operating on a tight schedule this week after its game against the Eagles was postponed two days because of the outbreak. Coach Ron Rivera said he gave players all of Wednesday off to rest as coaches put together the game plan for the Cowboys. Thursday’s practice was a walk-through, but Heinicke used it as an opportunity to “push it” and gauge his conditioning after dealing with the virus.
“I went out there today and felt good throwing the ball and stuff, but, again, I could feel myself kind of getting winded a little bit,” Heinicke said. “So to get back at this time, I think it’s good to not just jump into a ‘Sunday Night Football’ game. I’ve kind of just been sitting at home for a week.”
But he has little time before a pivotal game that could ultimately determine Washington’s playoff fate. The team has another light practice and walk-through Friday before it flies to Dallas on Christmas Day.
With Washington 6-8 and in 10th place in the NFC, its best chance to make the postseason requires wins in its final three games. Its last trip to Dallas, on Thanksgiving Day last year, was a season-altering blowout win. But that was after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was injured and before rookie linebacker Micah Parsons arrived.
“To a degree, [Heinicke will] have an idea of what to anticipate, what to expect, and I think that the experience for us as a whole, as a team, going up against them this year — I mean, this most certainly is a revamped team compared to last year,” Rivera said. “… I think that bodes well for us as a football team, just knowing what to expect and kind of understanding a little bit more of what they’re capable of.”
The Cowboys’ defense — with Parsons and defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence — proved too much for Washington to handle in Week 14. The three collectively had four of the Cowboys’ five sacks as well as two forced fumbles and an interception, all while Washington’s once-loaded defensive line was down to its fifth- and sixth-string ends because of coronavirus protocols.
Washington’s defensive line has since been mostly restored, but much of its secondary is either injured (cornerback William Jackson III, with a calf injury, and safety Landon Collins, foot) or still in covid-19 protocols (Kendall Fuller and Kam Curl).
Heinicke suffered knee and elbow injuries in the last game against Dallas, but he said Thursday that both “feel great” and that the bruising on his elbow is almost gone. His priority now is fully restoring his conditioning after the week-long absence.
“Those two things, I’m not even thinking about anymore,” he said. “Just trying to get back in shape. … I’m happy that we have another day tomorrow to see again where my body’s at, but I’m feeling pretty comfortable going into Sunday.”
Note: Washington designated kicker Joey Slye for return from injured reserve Thursday. Slye suffered a hamstring injury in Week 12 against the Seattle Seahawks and was replaced by Brian Johnson, who has gone 2 for 2 in field goals and 4 for 5 in extra-point attempts. Washington can activate Slye at any point during the remainder of the regular season.
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