Q&A with Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) attempts a pass against the New York Giants Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Landover, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) attempts a pass against the New York Giants Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Landover, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who signed in free agency this week to back up Desmond Ridder, met virtually with Atlanta media members Thursday.

Here’s what the former Collins Hill High School signal-caller had to say:

On signing with the Falcons: “This whole process has been very new to me. This is the first time I was really a free agent where I could kind of explore my options. So, it’s been a very long process. There were lots of ups and downs. Atlanta said they were interested from the beginning, didn’t know how much or how interested they were, but there was some interest there. Honestly, I was about to sign back with Washington about two or three days ago. Atlanta (came) in with a better offer. I sat back and thought about it. My family is from around here. I’m from around here. My little nephew (Jack Joseph) is going to be able to come see me at training camp and go to the games, so that was a big part of it. I’m just happy to be home and do that for my family.”

On being a Brett Favre fan: “My dad was born in Wisconsin. So, when I was born, I was automatically a cheesehead. I grew up watching Brett Favre and that’s how I fell in love with the game. He had a lot of fun out there. Lots of passion for the game. That’s what made me fall in love with it. So, I’ve been trying to emulate him my whole life. My mom, my sister, they’re all are going to be Falcon fans. It’s a very special moment.”

On being Desmond Ridder’s backup: “I’m going to try to be the best backup I can to him. I’m trying to help him in any way that I can. I remember when I was a rookie and in my second year as well, we had Shaun Hill (among the quarterbacks) when I was in Minnesota. As a young guy coming into this league, there’s a lot of things getting thrown at you from every direction. It’s hard to kind of balance what’s going on. So, you know, Shaun was a great mentor for me. He helped me a lot through that process. I just hope to do the same for Desmond. If he needs anything from me or if I see anything that can help him with, that’s what I’m here for. I’m very excited to work with him.”

More on his role as the backup: “They drafted (Ridder) high last year for a reason. They believe in him for reason. He showed some good film last year. Again, if something unfortunate happens to him, I’ll be ready to go. That’s kind of been my life the last three years. It’s kind of the same territory.”

On being a backup and supporting Ridder: “The last two years, after that that playoff game, (Washington) brought me back for two years. In that first year they brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was going to be the starter, and unfortunately, he went down in the first game, and I had to play. Then last year, Carson Wentz (came) in. I was trying to help him with the whole playbook throughout the whole offseason. I thought he picked it up really well. Again, unfortunately, he gets hurt in I think the eighth game of the year. I had to go in there and fill in for him. So again, I hope that doesn’t happen to Dez. I hope the best for him. I hope he stays healthy. But I feel like I’ve kind of gone through every situation you can kind of go through in football. It’s really kind of molded me to the player and teammate that I am today.”

On if knowing (Falcons wide receivers coach) T.J. Yates helped his decision: “Well, I love T.J., but no. I’m happy he’s here, though. We’ve always had a great relationship. You know, from the moment I got to Houston, he was very receptive. He kind of taught me a lot, and we’ve kept in touch now throughout the years. He’s a very special guy, good friend of mine. I’m happy he’s here.”

On if he followed the Falcons: “I never really thought of the Falcons when I was younger. Probably when Michael Vick was there, you know, it was very exciting and probably followed them then. But not too much. I was a big Packer guy.

On how he’ll fit into the offense: “But with this offense, they’ve kind of changed the offense the last couple of years. It was different with Matt Ryan, and then it was different with Marcus Mariota. I’m sure it’ll be different with Desmond. This staff does a great job of kind of putting their players in the best position to be successful. I’m very excited to see what they do this year and (see) how I can help.”

On how tough it was leave Washington: “It was very tough. I felt like home for me. I built a lot of great relationships there. There’s a lot of great memories there. They gave me my second chance at football. There’s a lot of special people up there. I’m going from one home to another. So, it’s a pretty easy process, but I’d be lying to you not to say I was a little heartbroken to leave those people up there.”

On the day he passed for 730 yards in college: “So, yeah, that was our first true year in the conference, the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association). I think it was our first conference game of that year. (New Hampshire) came down to our place, and they put up 24 points in the first five minutes, we’re down 24-nothing quick. I remember my offense coordinator coming up to me and saying, Hey, we’re going to throw the ball every play for the rest of the game. I was like, ‘all right.’ I thought he was kind of kidding. Seventy-nine passes later, we come back and beat them 64-61. It was a wild game. I threw for 730 yards and ran for 60 more, but the funniest part about that game was after the game, the head coach comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, man, you had 24 incompletions. You’ve got to be better.’ It was one of those deals. That was a very special day.”

On his first NFL start against the Falcons while with the Panthers: “That was a tough game because I remember Grady Jarrett, he sacked me early in the first half. I tried to brace myself and ended up tearing my tricep. I thought that might be my last game ever played. So, I remember just hounding the trainer and saying, ‘Hey, give me everything you’ve got’ and getting a brace on my arm. I’m getting back out there and playing. The stats might look all right, but I also threw three picks and we got beat. So, that was a tough day.”

On if he kept a home in the area: “Yeah, I was born and raised in Suwanee. Then in 2020, I was in the XFL and once that kind of got (finished) I came back home. I was living with my sister here in Flowery Branch. She was saying that she was trying to start a family. That was my cue to get the hell out of here. So, I bought a house down the road. So, I’ve had a house in Flowery Branch since late 2020. It’s a nice easy drive in.”

On his drive to work: “Seven minutes this morning it took to get here. Two back roads, and I’m right here.”

Collins Hill quarterback Taylor Heinicke (14) attempts a pass under a rush by Brookwood during the first half. Heinicke threw a touchdown pass for a 7-3 Eagles score at the half.

Credit: Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

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