Ahead of a very crucial stretch, Taylor Heinicke seems as relaxed as ever

Ahead of a crucial stretch, Heinicke seems as relaxed as ever originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Taylor Heinicke spent part of the Commanders’ bye week at his sister’s house in Georgia, where he had the chance to bond with his rapidly-growing nephew — “Last time I saw him he could barely crawl, now he’s running around like a maniac,” the quarterback said Wednesday — and recharge ahead of a seriously crucial stretch for him and his team.

During the visit, Heinicke found himself hanging on a familiar piece of furniture: the couch he slept on before signing with Washington late in the 2020 season and restarting his NFL career.

That item has become somewhat famous since Heinicke first brought it up and, to this day, it’s often mentioned when discussing his backstory.

So, when Washington’s starter sat down for his first press conference with the media following the bye, he was asked what it was like to return to the sectional that’s so key in the retelling of his football life. But instead of answering artfully or going super deep on the meaning of the moment, he stayed true to himself and responded simply.

“Obviously, I’m on that couch, watching TV and my sister thinks it’s funny to post it,” Heinicke told reporters. “So I rolled with it.”

His straightforward tone carried over into other back-and-forths, including one about how the 29-year-old went about reviewing his on-field performance as well as preparing for the season-defining four games that lie ahead. 

“I pretty much left everything here,” he said. “I took some stuff home from the [Week 13 matchup with the] Giants to look over it throughout the week but not do too much. I wanted to get away, let my life relax a little bit.”

Then there was the question he received about being featured in an NBC promo that hyped up this Sunday’s primetime clash with New York. Heinicke was the player shown on the Commanders’ side of the screen, standing across from the Giants’ Saquon Barkley.

“It’s a cool deal, but I think my family finds it more appealing,” Heinicke said. “I was watching it with them and they’re all like, ‘You’re on TV!” and I’m like, ‘Yeah.'”

Lastly, when pushed on what Washington can improve upon to ensure the club advances to the playoffs, the signal-caller avoided any grand ideas and opted to solely evaluate himself.

“I think the formula we got is great,” he said. “There’s a couple of things personally that I want to polish up, which I worked hard today at practice with, and I think if I can do that, we’ll have a better opportunity to score some points.”

Heinicke is enjoyable to listen to at the podium because he’s honest and rarely attempts to overcomplicate the situation. Despite the added pressure that comes with competing in the NFL in December, both of those traits were evident on Wednesday.

The Commanders, meanwhile, are surely hoping the latter quality will be just as clear when they resume play this weekend at FedEx Field.

The squad’s offense is currently posting 19.5 points an outing, which is the 25th-best mark in the sport. That number, plus a meager third-down percentage and just-below-average red zone efficiency, indicates that the unit is limited.

It’s less limited, however, when Heinicke is calmly operating within the scheme and unloading the ball on time to the talented Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and other skill guys that Ron Rivera has placed around Heinicke. The rushing attack undoubtedly drives the unit, yet when it’s combined with a clean Heinicke performance — think back to the recent upset of the Eagles in Philadelphia, for example — Washington’s potential expands.

Unfortunately, Heinicke’s been a little more uneven in his past couple of appearances than Rivera and the rest of the staff would like him to be. He was lucky to escape with just one interception in the win over the Falcons, while a strong beginning and furious finish in the tie with New York bookended a mediocre middle.

Those highs and lows will be overlooked, though, if Heinicke can help guide the Commanders beyond Week 18, a mission that resumes with their rematch against the Giants.

And when the prospect of tying the NFC East rival once more was broached on Wednesday, Heinicke briefly shifted out of his largely reserved mood to display a tad more energy. 

“I was watching the [UFC] fights this past weekend and the main event ended in a tie,” he said. “How (expletive) would it be to get your ass beat for 25 minutes and end in a tie? I went back to our game and that’s what we did. Ties aren’t fun.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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