Taylor Heinicke is currently better known for a kick than a throw, which is something the third-year Vikings quarterback is looking to change this year.
The digital insults lobbed at Heinicke after he kicked in the glass pane of a door last summer and severed two tendons in his foot don’t really match the reality of a 24-year old who is a few classes shy of a mathematics degree at Old Dominion University.
Heinicke will soon turn his attention back to the Vikings as players report in 10 days for the start of the offseason program. He’s out to remake the narrative around him as one of three healthy quarterbacks on the current roster.
“Obviously, it’s a big year for me,” Heinicke said Thursday.
In 2015, he was the only undrafted player to make an active roster as a quarterback. He’s looking to get back on track in Minnesota in a contract season, having not yet thrown an NFL regular-season pass.
He may have had a chance last fall after Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee in August, but Heinicke’s bid for the backup job was derailed by the strange summer accident in Atlanta, where he tried to help a friend who was locked out of an apartment.
“Obviously what I did was stupid and it was very self-inflicted, I know it hurt the team,” Heinicke said. “With the whole Teddy thing and trading the first-round pick, obviously it didn’t help the whole situation.
“But something I did when I was 23 years old, I don’t want that to define me as a person and define who I am for the rest of my life. So I’m just working hard to do something to overshadow that.”
Heinicke missed his second NFL preseason and didn’t resume scout team work until October.
“It was awful, but the only thing I could do is take mental reps,” he said. “Hear the play call, go through the read and stuff like that in my head. Tell myself where I’m going with the ball while reading the defense. I felt I got better doing that as well, felt like I got better mentally.”
Weighing a targeted 207 pounds, Heinicke has been working out five times a week to prepare for the upcoming season while taking classes at ODU. He’s nearly 10 pounds lighter than when he arrived at Winter Park two years ago, which is where the Vikings want the mobile quarterback.
Heinicke, the 18th Division-I quarterback to throw for 10,000 career yards and run for another 1,000 while at ODU, felt he was finding a groove last spring when he drew good reviews from coaches.
“I felt, personally, that I got a lot better,” Heinicke said. “I had a better grasp on the offense, a better grasp on the playbook and felt like I made some big strides in the spring there. Hopefully this year I can do the same thing. Go into training camp this year and try to prove I’m worthy of being on the 53. ”
He’ll compete with newly-signed quarterback Case Keenum, who started nine games for the Rams last season, for the backup job behind starter Sam Bradford. Heinicke complete nearly 70 percent of his passes for 516 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in 2015 in his first and only preseason.
“Move the chains and hopefully score some points in the preseason,” Heinicke said. “I’m just excited to get out there and play with the guys again.”