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LANDOVER, Md. – Washington Football Team once again faces questions about an injured quarterback. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick left Sunday’s 20-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter with an injured right hip and did not return.
After the match, coach Ron Rivera said he did not know the severity of Fitzpatrick’s injury and probably would not until Monday morning. With a game Thursday against the New York Giants, Fitzpatrick’s status is crucial.
Fitzpatrick is expected to have an MRI on Monday to see if he has suffered a hip subluxation and to determine the severity of the injury.
Taylor Heinicke, a fan favorite after his strong show in a playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, replaced Fitzpatrick. I finished 11-for-15 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He failed on his first two passes before finding his rhythm. At times, fans in the stadium sang: “Heinicke! Heinicke!”
“He gave us a spark when we needed it,” Rivera said.
Heinicke has not started a regular game since December 23, 2018. Against Tampa Bay, Heinicke threw 306 yards and a touchdown in a 31-23 loss.
Midway through the second quarter on Sunday, Fitzpatrick fell back to pass, but was equalized by linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who beat left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to the inside. Fitzpatrick lay on the ground for a minute, getting up briefly before lying down. When he was helped off the field, he stopped to talk to Heinicke before patting him on the helmet and going to the locker room.
Several players said they spoke to Fitzpatrick during the break but did not know his status.
“It’s crap, man,” fasting Logan Thomas said. “Leader of our team and obviously he will be missed.”
Thomas said Fitzpatrick was in good spirits when they chatted. But there has been no word on whether or not Fitzpatrick should miss time. He told Heinicke on the pitch that this was only the third time he has had to leave a game due to injury in his 17 seasons.
But this is a team used to changing quarterbacks after starting four different QBs in 2020 en route to a 7-9 finish and NFC East title. Players who were here in 2019 endured three different starting quarterbacks.
“Business as usual,” Thomas said. “We have been in this situation before.
“Taylor is a baller. Last year, Taylor showed what he can do. We just have to get on with what’s happening.”
Heinicke found his rhythm at the start of the third quarter and completed all five passes in the first series – including a 34-yard pass to Terry McLaurin down the left sideline. Heinicke then joined Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown.
“When Taylor stepped in and brought some energy, it was a big plus,” Rivera said. “There’s something about Taylor; it’s a huge positive. It brings a little something.”
Washington signed Fitzpatrick in the offseason to give a quarterback veteran boost. The team was enthusiastic about his wisdom and leadership, but Fitzpatrick fought against Charger’s defense and completed three of six passes in 13 yards. He became Washington’s 31st starting quarterback since the franchise won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season.
Washington signed Heinicke late last season. He was a student at Old Dominion when the team called and had not started an NFL game in two years. After the season, Washington signed him with a two-year contract. Rivera had said there would be a quarterback competition in training camp, but Fitzpatrick showed early on what the team wanted to see and a competition never really developed. Still, Heinicke is in a completely different place than he was a year ago when he was out of the NFL.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride for the last year and a half,” he said.
If Heinicke is to start, he gives more opportunity to play with his legs. Fitzpatrick can still drive, but Heinicke does it more and with better success. He ran three times in 17 yards and also made another play with his legs that ended with a two-handed chest pass to McLaurin for a 17-yard win.
“You can’t really work on it,” Heinicke said. “It’s just something in the heat of the moment. It’s not like I’m rattling in practice and doing shovel passes. I would be yelled at by it. It’s something you want to be smart about.”
But such games excite his teammates.
“It gave us a lot of energy,” cornerback William Jackson III said. “He had a little touch about him.”
Heinicke must also be smart with his scrambling as he has been injured in previous starts because he likes to run. His backup if Fitzpatrick can not play would be Kyle Allen. But these races are also a sign that Heinicke is doing well. This also happens to be the offense he is most familiar with, having played for offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Minnesota and Carolina before joining him in Washington.
“The biggest thing is to go out there with some confidence and just prepare every day,” Heinicke said. “It gives you that confidence so I can go out there and play freely and know what we’re trying to achieve.”