Taylor Heinicke on gaining weight, altering playing style after new contract

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Taylor Heinicke on gaining weight, altering playing style originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In his whirlwind of a professional football career, quarterback Taylor Heinicke has just two NFL starts to his name. In both of them, he's been forced to either leave the game or miss snaps due to injury. 

Yet, after his heroic performance in January where he nearly led the Washington Football Team to a playoff upset over the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Heinicke earned a two-year deal with Washington -- the most secure contract of his career.

Although Heinicke has a new sense of job security, the quarterback is continuing to approach the game as if he's fighting for his football life. That started this offseason when Heinicke trained with Joel Seedman, gaining 15 pounds of what he called "good weight" in order to increase his strength.

"I feel like I did a pretty good job this offseason," Heinicke said via Zoom on Wednesday. "I gained about 15 pounds of good weight, eating super healthy and hitting the gym a lot. 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."

Listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds., Heinicke will always be undersized for his position. That doesn't mean he can't be successful, though. There have been plenty of signal-callers smaller than him who have excelled at the NFL level.

As Heinicke demonstrated in that NFC Wild Card game against Tampa Bay, his athleticism is also a major part of his game. While the quarterback understood that adding weight this offseason was a necessity, he also made sure to follow a strict plan that wouldn't sacrifice his speed or agility in the process in order to add muscle.

"I feel like I move just fine, the same way. Again, it wasn't just like I was lifting heavy weight and not running as well," Heinicke said. "I was doing a lot of agility stuff, a lot of footwork stuff, so I didn't want to lose that aspect of my game because I know it is a big part of it. I wanted to be smart, put on good weight but also have the speed and agility and stuff like that still there. I think my trainers back home did a pretty good job."

When Heinicke returned to Ashburn for OTAs, his coaches -- including offensive coordinator Scott Turner -- noticed the changes he had made.

"I had this conversation with him at the end of the season, the one thing I told him was he needed to put on weight in his upper body just to protect himself, just to protect his body from taking hits," Turner said. "He definitely did that. You can see the dedication. He's bigger."

Not only did Heinicke's workout regimen change this offseason, but he also altered his diet, too. He would start his day with a protein shake and a nice walk, then would come back and have either oatmeal or another protein shake, too.

For dinner, the quarterback said he got into grilling this offseason and would cook mainly steak, chicken, burgers or veggies -- foods that have a lot of protein and good carbohydrates.

As for why he went so hard this offseason, despite having a new contract? His answer was simple.

"I was on the other side – 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."

During his outing against the Buccaneers, Heinicke won over Washington fans by putting his body on the line. No play demonstrated this more than on a third-and-5 with Washington trailing by eight late in the third quarter when Heinicke evaded a sack before sprinting down the left sideline and dove four yards toward the pylon for a touchdown.

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When Heinicke does take the field next for Washington, he plans to play with the same fire and passion, but also a tad more conservative in order to preserve his body and health a bit more.

"We were playing Tampa Bay in the playoffs and I didn't know if I was ever going to play again," Heinicke said. "If that is regular season this year in the fourth quarter I am running out at the two yard line and we have four downs to score a touchdown. I think that is kind of the change I am going to make this year."

Turner, though, was all for Heinicke going all out in that instance.

"I know Taylor," Turner said Thursday, smiling. "If he's in that situation, he's diving for the pylon again. There's no question about that. That was a playoff game, we needed to have it."

As it stands now, per head coach Ron Rivera, Heinicke will have the chance to compete for Washington's starting QB job. But, barring something unexpected, it appears that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the team's Week 1 starter.

Regardless, Heinicke is in the best position of his NFL career so far and enjoying the process each day.

"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."