Ron Rivera to ODU's Taylor Heinicke: Welcome back, but keep back

Panthers Camp Football
Posted at 10:46 PM, Dec 11, 2020

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. - Essential worker. We've heard the term used quite a bit as our nation navigates the pandemic.

This week, we learn an NFL quarterback and former local standout is so essential, he's a key figure - THE key figure - in a 'doomsday scenario' for his employer.

Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion University's all-time leading passer, signed with the Washington Football Team's practice squad Tuesday. Head coach Ron Rivera, who coached Heinicke in Carolina, says the QB has strict orders: keep his distance from the team's other quarterbacks.

The reasoning is simple: if one QB catches COVID-19, there's a better than decent chance it takes out the entire position. If that happens close to game day, that could be disastrous. Therefore, Heinicke will be the last man standing - and will hopefully be standing healthy.

“We’ll try to keep Taylor as separate from the rest of them as possible, which we’ve done," Rivera answered when asked by News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler Friday. "Taylor’s instructions are that his contact tracer is not allowed to blink red more than two times. He’s got to stay away from those guys as much as possible, and they’ve got to stay away from him as much as possible. He understands and knows the system, which makes him the ideal fit. That way if something were to happen and we have to go with the doomsday plan and insert him as the ‘quarantine quarterback,’ then we would be OK.”

Heinicke finished his ODU career in 2014 ranking third in FBS history in total offense; fourth in FBS with 132 touchdown passes; and sixth in passing yards. He's spent time with the Minnesota Vikings (2015-2017), New England Patriots (2017), Houston Texans (2017) and Carolina Panthers (2018-2019) in the NFL.

In 2018, under then-head coach Ron Rivera, he appeared in six games for the Panthers – completing 35 of 57 passes for 320 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner coached Heinicke in Carolina and Minnesota. He's appeared in seven career NFL games.

Washington faces San Francisco Sunday at 4:25 p.m.