Back with the Washington Football Team on Thursday following a week-long absence due to COVID-19, quarterback Taylor Heinicke did not hide how he felt during his seven days of isolation.
"It sucked," Heinicke told local media on Thursday via Zoom, an answer he crafted with little hesitation. "It [was] kind of a helpless feeling."
Heinicke was one of 26 Washington players that the team has placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Dec. 8. Washington's outbreak forced the NFL to postpone the club's Week 15 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles from Sunday to Tuesday evening. Even with the game being moved back two days, Washington still had over a dozen players still in the protocols and unable to suit up.
For the 28-year-old, it was difficult to watch Washington's Tuesday night game from his home, knowing there was nothing he could do to help his teammates in the most important contest of the season.
"You battle with these guys throughout the whole year and you want to be with them. It's a huge, crucial game. You just felt helpless," Heinicke said. "You don't like feeling like that. A lot of guys felt the same way that weren't playing. But it was out of my control. I just tried to get better as quickly as possible."
With Heinicke unable to play, Washington had to turn to Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, who the club just poached off New England's practice squad last Friday. Gilbert, who had previous experience under Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner, was thrust into action because backup quarterback Kyle Allen also tested positive for the virus last week.
Heinicke watched the game alone at home but did his best to stay as involved as possible. The quarterback pulled out the binder of Washington's game plan he was given and said he spent the game trying to figure out what plays the offense was going to run.
"I was looking at formations, the motions, seeing what we're about to run and what their defense was running," he said.
Heinicke was impressed with Gilbert's effort, given the circumstances and situation he was put in. But unfortunately, Washington simply didn't execute enough and fell to Philadelphia, 27-17.
The NFL has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks due to the highly-contagious Omicron variant. While early studies show this variant is less severe than previous strains, Heinicke felt multiple symptoms during his battle with the virus.
"I felt fine the first couple days, then the symptoms really started coming in," Heinicke said. "It sucked there for a little bit, but I'm happy to be back now. It's never fun sitting at home and watching your guys go out and play a game and you can't do anything about it or help them or anything."
As far as symptoms go, Heinicke said he dealt with a scratchy throat, runny nose and body aches. At one point during his isolation, the quarterback tried to do laundry and felt out of breath after walking roughly 20 steps to move his hamper bin full of clothes.
However, when Heinicke woke up on Wednesday morning, he felt like himself again. He then registered a pair of negative tests and was activated by the club on Thursday, where he was able to return to practice.
"I went out there today and felt good throwing the ball," Heinicke said. "Again, I could feel myself get a little winded a little bit. So, to get back at this time, it's good, not to just kind of jump into Sunday Night Football game after sitting at home for a week."
By sitting out this past week, Heinicke was able to recover from both knee and elbow injuries he suffered two Sundays ago. The quarterback said Thursday that both his knee and elbow "feel great" and that he's not thinking about either injury anymore.
During his Zoom session, Heinicke didn't hide how difficult this past week has been for him. But, with the worst now behind him, the quarterback is looking forward to returning to the field on Sunday and hoping to avenge the team's Week 14 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night.
"I'm just happy to be back," he said.