Heinicke, whose impressive preseason performance in 2015 earned him a spot on the active roster last year, hasn’t been able to practice with the Vikings since minicamp ended in June. Between then and training camp, Heinicke was trying to kick in a door after locking himself out and lacerated a tendon near his ankle. After having surgery in July, he had a boot on the ankle up until the middle of August, setting up a frustrating wait on the reserve list that is expected to end “this week, probably,” according to head coach Mike Zimmer.
Players on the reserve/non-football injury list have to stay on that list for at least six weeks, and this week marks the start of a 21-day window in which Heinicke can start practicing and won’t have to count against the team’s 53-man roster. He is expected to start practicing on Wednesday.
“Once the boot came off I just wanted to start running full speed, but they were smart with me,” he said after watching Monday’s practice. “They did what they needed to do to get me to 100 percent so I’m excited to get back out there at practice.”
Although Heinicke is pretty convinced he is 100 percent now, he said getting back in action will be the true test.
“I won’t know whether I’ll be 100 percent or not until I get in a real game,” he said. “I feel good right now moving straight forward on the field. I’ve taken a couple drops out there, nothing hurts. I’m confident I’ll be fine out there.”
The undrafted rookie in 2015 posted a strong 89.3 passer rating in his first preseason, including a 101.6 in his most extensive action in the preseason finale, when he had two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was expected to battle for a backup spot again this year, but his injury took him out of contention and the season-ending knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater on Aug. 30 only made the wait worse. The Vikings traded for starter Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill remains the backup.
Heinecke, however, expects to pick up the offense right where he left off following minicamp.
“It’s kind of second nature when you’ve been doing it for so long,” he said. “It might take a couple weeks to get back into it and really polish it up. I feel good out there.”
The first step back will begin on the practice field this week. Within three weeks, the Vikings will have to make a decision on his roster status. For now, however, he’s just glad to get back on the field.null