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Taylor Heinicke 'happy to be back' ahead of primetime matchup


Taylor Heinicke did a good job of summing up his time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list: "It sucked."

Heinicke was placed on the list on Friday and was unavailable for Washington's Tuesday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. While the team had to prepare for the division matchup with Garrett Gilbert as its starter, Heinicke was forced to stay home, get healthy and hope some good news would come his way.

On Thursday morning, that news finally came, as the starting quarterback was activated off the list, cleared and approved for practice. His return comes at a critical time for Washington, which is still clinging to playoff hopes.

"I'm just happy to be back now," Heinicke said after practice.

It was a helpless feeling, Heinicke said, as he watched his teammates play against the Eagles from home. He had his binder open in front of him as Gilbert led Washington's offense and was trying to guess which play the unit would run. He was paying attention to the formations and motions, and while he's not one to get too excited while watching a game, he did start talking to the television as if to give Gilbert some advice.

"We had a script up and I could kind of see what we were running, how we were executing them," Heinicke said. "I was trying to keep up with as much as possible."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Heinicke said it wasn't fun having to sit at home while his teammates are on the field. But now that he's back, he'll need to get up to speed after being in COVID protocols for almost a week. That started on Thursday, and the signs head coach Ron Rivera saw from Heinicke, who was also dealing with knee and elbow injuries the previous week, were all positive.

"He looked good, he really did," Rivera said. "He was throwing the ball well, movement was good. He seemed on top of everything so it was good to see him back out there."

Rivera added that Heinicke teammates gravitated around him during practice, which is expected, given how much of a leader he's been for the team. But more importantly, Heinicke's return means he will have two days to prepare for Sunday's night's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

It might not sound like much, but Heinicke called the time "huge."

"Today at practice, I pushed it a little bit. I wanted to see where my body was at and what I was feeling. I felt pretty good for the most part. I'm happy we have another day tomorrow to see where my body is at. I'm feeling pretty comfortable going into Sunday."

Having Heinicke under center should be a boost for Washington, which is still technically in the hunt for the postseason. It will need to win out to get into the playoffs, and the Cowboys, who lead the division and have the No. 2 seed, are next up. Despite not playing well for most of the afternoon in the previous meeting nearly two weeks ago, Washington still had a chance to win in the final minutes.

If there's any time Washington could use some of Heinicke's unique skillset, it'll be on Sunday.

"They created some pressure up front," Heinicke said of the previous matchup with Dallas. "They did a great job of covering our guys in man coverage. They did a good job of mixing things up. A combination of those things…along with the mistakes that we made, you just can't win games like that.

"We've just got to clean some stuff up on our end and play a good game and we should have a shot."

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