You might have noticed it by now, but Taylor Heinicke looks a little different running around the field than he did last season.
The change was all by design. Heinicke set a goal for himself to get bigger and stronger during the offseason in preparation to compete with the other quarterbacks on the roster. It's safe to say that mission has been accomplished with Heinicke reporting to the Washington Football Team's OTAs with an extra 15 pounds of what he calls "good weight."
Adding more weight might sound simple enough, but the reality is that it required Heinicke to make adjustments in everything he did from working out to eating all while rehabbing from a shoulder injury he suffered in the playoffs. The hope is that if his number is called, he will be more durable and still possess the quickness that gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fits in January.
"I feel like I did a pretty good job this offseason," Heinicke said after Wednesday's practice. "I just felt like every time I go out on that field, for some reason, something happens. So that was the biggest point of concern this offseason and I felt like I kind of checked that box off."
Heinicke was alluding to him battling injuries at various points of his career. He's been on and off Injured Reserve with three teams, and his injury against the Buccaneers came as he was diving for a touchdown that brought Washington within two points of tying the score. He does not plan on changing his playing style too much, but he wants to take more hits without the threat of injury.
One of the first steps he took was sticking to his workout routine with Dr. Joel Seedman, who has a Ph.D. in Kinesiology and is the owner of Advanced Human Performance in Suwanee, Georgia. Seedman is not one to preach doing an excessive amount of reps of lifting a certain amount of weight; instead, he focused more on functional movement. It's unorthodox, Heinicke said, but it's clear that his process works, as Heinicke has consistently gone back to him for the past six years.
"Joel does a good job [with] that," Heinicke said. "It is a very functional movement-type of deal. You see a lot of guys gain 15 pounds and kind of lose their throwing motion or have a slower throwing motion, and that is not the way he does things. He kind of strengthens around it and you can still kind of do everything."
The rest of Heinicke's routine involved several simple steps that made a deep impact when combined together. He worked out six days per week, got plenty of sleep, stayed hydrated and disciplined. His diet changed as well; he drank protein shakes each morning and started grilling his food more often. His meals were filled with chicken, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates.
It was a process that Heinicke took seriously, because as he has mentioned before, he knows what it is like to be out of the NFL. It's a feeling he doesn't want to experience again.
"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."
The next question that might be on people's minds is whether the extra weight is going to affect Heinicke's speed and quickness. It was part of what made Washington's team so enticing, as he ducked and juked one defender after the other. But Heinicke had that in mind over the past few months. He did not want to lose that aspect of his playing style, so he worked on agility drills to maintain his exceptional footwork.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner is more familiar with Heinicke than most, considering that the two have worked together since their days with the Minnesota Vikings. If Washington needed a play like his touchdown in the playoffs, "there's no question" he would dive for the pylon again. But he also wants Heinicke to protect himself, which was why Turner tasked him to put on more weight in the first place.
"That's the one thing that gets overlooked," Turner said. "A lot of the reasons [why] guys want bigger quarterbacks is because you have to take the pounding of getting hit for 17-plus games. He definitely did that. You see the dedication that he put in."
Heinicke wants to be the best version of himself, and aside from not being as risky on the field, part of that involves him altering his body to endure the physical challenges of being a starter, should he get the opportunity again. At the very least, Heinicke is approaching things with the right attitude.
"I wake up every day and I am stoked to go to work and play some football. You're getting paid handsomely to go play a sport," Heinicke said. "You can't beat that. I wake up every morning, it is a good day, go play some football and have some fun with it. We have a great squad here, great coach and it is a great environment. I think all of the guys feel the same way."