But that doesn’t mean the incumbent starting quarterback Desmond Ridder won’t get the ball back after Sunday.
Head coach Arthur Smith announced Wednesday morning that Heinicke will be the starting QB for this Sunday’s game. Smith emphasized that this change was just for this upcoming game but did not indicate whether Ridder would be permanently sidelined or would return after Sunday.
“Just for this week, just with all the variables, we feel [it’s] best for this week for us against Minnesota, Taylor will play this week,” said Smith in a late morning press conference at Flowery Branch.
Smith was asked what made him so sure Heinike was ready to play Sunday.
“You get moments in the season, things come up…you know he’s a legitimate pro,” he said. “I tell him ‘here’s the ball, go play’…That’s who makes Taylor who he is.”
Falcon fans and the local sports press have been watching and waiting since last Sunday’s Titans game for clues as to whether Heineicke or Ridder would start Sunday. Heineicke completed the second half of the game when Ridder was pulled due to a concussion. Ridder never returned to the game despite being cleared to play. Ridder has been under fire due to in-game errors and turnovers that have been costly to the team.
Coach Smith contacted Heinicke by text last night at 10:15 p.m., telling him he was going to be starting Sunday’s game. Heinicke told the press this afternoon after a day of practice that he was asleep at the time and didn’t find out he was being reassigned until early this morning.
Ridder, who was at practice today, did not speak to the press. But Heinicke told the media he took the news well.
“He’s handled it very well,” he said. “He’s speaking up in meetings. He’s very engaged.”
— Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonWSB) November 1, 2023
Heinicke, Ridder, and Logan Woodside were spotted by WSB TV’s Alison Mastrangelo at the Falcons training camp practicing together.
“We’re still pushing each other,” said Heinicke. “He’s still preparing to play.”
For Heinicke’s part, he’s locked in on getting a win this Sunday against the Vikings.
“I’m focused on being the guy this week,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, Coach Smith appeared on “Dukes & Bell” on 92.9 The Game and repeated that there were many “variables” in play that led to his decision to start Heinicke over Ridder. Carl Dukes asked Smith “Is this a benching” of Ridder. Smith answered: “There’s a lot of ways you can phrase it”, not directly answering the question. “There’s a lot that goes into a decision.”
Image credit: Alison Mastrangelo/X