Alex Smith will miss Saturday’s playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a calf injury — meaning Taylor Heinicke will start for Washington at quarterback, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed.
Smith just not did make enough progress to be active. After first suffering the injury in mid-December, Smith missed two games and was hampered upon his return throughout last week’s win in Philadelphia. Smith was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, though Heinicke took most of the reps.
That leaves Washington’s playoff hopes on Heinicke, a career journeyman who was out of the NFL until last month.
Saturday will be Heinicke’s first start since 2018 when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Washington signed Heinicke in December as a quarantine quarterback due to his familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s offense.
In Week 16, Heinicke replaced quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 27-year-old threw for 137 yards and led a touchdown drive, impressing teammates and coaches. A day after the loss, Washington released Haskins and made Heinicke the backup for Smith.
A former Old Dominion star, this will be just Heinicke’s ninth appearance in the NFL. Before joining Washington, Heinicke spent time as a backup in the XFL and more recently, was enrolled in college classes to finish his math degree.
ESPN first reported the news that Smith would be inactive.
Coach Ron Rivera said Thursday that Smith’s calf was still sore. He added that he wished the game was to be played on Sunday — not Saturday — to give the quarterback another day of recovery.
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