Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington QB Alex Smith will take time to ponder NFL future

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith said he’s going to take some time to ponder his future in the game.

Smith made an inspirational recovery from a devastating compound fracture suffered in a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018 — one that required 17 surgeries to treat the injury and a life-threatening infection — to lead Washington’s charge to the playoffs in 2020, but a calf injury kept him out of Saturday’s wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He told reporters on Sunday that this season was a thrill.

“I had so much fun this year, especially given all the COVID stuff,” he said. “But to be back in the locker room, to be on the field with the guys, to be playing a game I love and to lose yourself in it, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. You cannot duplicate it outside of here.

“And for me, I’m going to take a few weeks. My wife has been through a lot and my family, certainly I’m going to take their input. But that’s something that right now I’m still just living in the moment and not getting ahead of myself. That is for another time and place.”

Smith, 36, was 5-1 as the starter on a team that finished 7-9 — good enough to win the NFC East. Washington started the season with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, then turned to Kyle Allen, who went down with a season-ending dislocated ankle in Week 9.

Undrafted quarterback Taylor Heinicke started Saturday’s playoff game. Smith said he understood coach Ron Rivera’s decision to start Heinicke but that watching from the sidelines was “really difficult.”

“I was willing to absolutely go out there, but coach felt with [Tampa Bay’s] defense, the pressure they brought, their defensive line, that it just wasn’t fair, and obviously (decided to) go with Taylor and his ability to use his legs,” Smith said. “And I totally get that. Totally understood it.”

Washington enters the offseason with a big question mark at quarterback, and Smith might not be the answer. He has two years remaining on a contract that is due to pay him $18.75 million in 2021 and $20.75 million in 2022.

Should the team cut him, it will save $14.7 million against the salary cap. Washington also could bring him back at a reduced salary.

Smith, who was the No. 1 selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, said there are a lot of considerations as he mulls his future.

“Again, I’m going to get away and with a clear head, sit down and go over everything and make the best decision,” Smith said. “But I can’t say how much I loved the opportunity to be here (as) a part of this team, to get back out there and obviously play this amazing game.”

Smith finished the season with a 66.7 percent (168 of 252) completion rate and 1,582 passing yards in eight games. He threw six touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Washington mulls rotating QBs in wild-card game

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday he is considering rotating quarterbacks in Saturday night’s wild-card game against Tampa Bay.

Quarterback Alex Smith returned from a two-game absence because of a strained calf to lead Washington to a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, clinching the NFC East with a 7-9 record. However, Smith’s mobility appeared limited, leaving Rivera to devise an alternate plan for a matchup with the blitz-happy Buccaneers (11-5).

“We have to definitely look at that,” Rivera said Tuesday. “The truth of the matter is we play a very aggressive defense this week; it’s something we most certainly have to look at.”

Enter Taylor Heinicke, who was signed to Washington’s practice squad on Dec. 8 after a two-year hiatus from the league.

Smith’s calf injury, on the same leg that was seriously injured in 2018, came in a Week 14 victory at San Francisco. Dwayne Haskins started the next two games while Smith recovered, but the team released the former first-round draft pick on Dec. 28.

Heinicke played in Washington’s game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 27, subbing for a benched Haskins and throwing for 137 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL action since 2018 when he was with the Rivera-coached Panthers.

Rivera said Smith “had his moments” during the Eagles’ game but noted some instances that the veteran would have benefited from better mobility. Heinicke should be better prepared to help the cause after taking 25 snaps against the Panthers.

“We’ll just know as we go through the game and we get in certain situations or circumstances, we may have to consider something like (multiple quarterbacks),” Rivera said. “I can’t tell you what (the deciding factor) would be. It has to be something that comes up in the moment of the game.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Washington QB Smith to start at Philadelphia

Washington quarterback Alex Smith will start Sunday night’s regular-season finale in Philadelphia barring any late setbacks with his injured right calf, multiple outlets reported Saturday.

Smith, 36, went 4-1 after taking over as the starter before sustaining the injury in a Week 14 win against the San Francisco 49ers.

Washington (6-9) dropped its last two games to Seattle and Carolina in his absence but can still win the NFC East and clinch the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs by beating the Eagles (4-10-1).

After missing all of 2019 recovering from a leg injury and a life-threatening infection, Smith has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards with four touchdowns and six picks in seven appearances this season.

If Smith can’t go, Taylor Heinicke would start and Steven Montez would serve as the backup. Montez, an undrafted rookie from Colorado, was promoted from the practice squad last week after the team parted ways with 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins.

Heinicke replaced an ineffective Haskins in the fourth quarter last Sunday and completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a TD in a 20-13 loss to the Panthers. Haskins was released the following day.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) celebrates his touchdown with running back Alvin Kamara (41) in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncosat Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Saints RBs ruled out as close contacts

Several New Orleans Saints running backs have reportedly been ruled out for Sunday’s game as close contacts of starter Alvin Kamara, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

According to multiple reports, backups Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington, fullback Michael Burton and running backs coach Joel Thomas will not be available when the Saints (11-4) close out the regular season against the Carolina Panthers (5-10) in Charlotte, N.C.

None of the other running backs tested positive and they are expected to return next week, per the reports.

Wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery will now likely see the majority of the carries on Sunday. New Orleans is also expected to call up rookie Tony Jones Jr. from the practice squad. Versatile quarterback Taysom Hill is another option in the backfield.

In addition to Kamara, the team’s leading rusher (932 yards) and receiver (756), the short-handed Saints were already missing injured wide receivers Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) stands on the sidelines after being benched against the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Unsigned Haskins parts with agent

Former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins is parting with agent David Mulugheta.

ESPN reported Haskins and Mulugheta mutually parted ways as Haskins, waived by the Washington Football Team on Monday, officially becomes a free agent.

NFL Network reported Wednesday teams have shown interest in Haskins, including the Carolina Panthers.

Mulugheta confirmed via social media he no longer represents Haskins.

“Dwayne is a great young man with whom I wish I could have continued to work with,” he said. “Yet the decision was made that a fresh start would be in Dwayne’s best interest. I wish him nothing but success moving forward and will continue to root for him.”

Haskins was the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft, when the Washington franchise was under the direction of team president Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden.

Gruden was fired last season and replaced by Ron Rivera. Allen is also gone.

The decision to release Haskins came after he was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captaincy following a trip to a nightclub in which he was spotted without wearing a mask. Under the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol, going to a nightclub without wearing personal protective equipment is punishable by a maximum fine of one week’s salary or up to a four-game suspension.

Haskins started on Sunday in place of an injured Alex Smith before being benched in the fourth quarter. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a 20-13 loss to the Panthers.

“My time with the WFT has unfortunately come to an end,” Haskins wrote on his private Twitter account, per ESPN.com. “I thank the team & fans for the opportunity to play for the team I grew up rooting for. I take full responsibility for not meeting the standards of a NFL QB & will become a better man & player because of this experience.”

Haskins, 23, completed 148 of 241 pass attempts for 1,439 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He also fumbled six times and went 1-5 as a starter.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis (28) scores a touchdown against the Washington Football Team during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers deny Washington’s bid for division-clinching win

The visiting Carolina Panthers took advantage of the mistake-prone Washington Football Team for a 20-13 victory against a team directed by their former coach Sunday in Landover, Md.

The outcome prevented Ron Rivera’s team from clinching the NFC East.

Washington (6-9), which tries next week to claim the divisional title by playing the regular-season finale at Philadelphia, was in position to wrap up the division because of the New York Giants’ loss earlier in the day at Baltimore.

Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who had a rough week with off-field issues, committed three of the team’s four first-half turnovers.

The Panthers (5-10) won for only the second time since mid-October. It was only the franchise’s second victory in its last 14 December games.

Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 19-for-28 for 197 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Haskins was 14-for-28 for 154 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. He was replaced with slightly more than nine minutes remaining by Taylor Heinicke, who directed Washington on a drive covering more than 85 yards before a sack and a fourth-down touchdown play nullified by a holding penalty led to a turnover on downs.

On the next possession, Heinicke threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to J.D. McKissic with 1:50 remaining. The Panthers recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.

Haskins started for the second week in a row because of Alex Smith’s calf injury. Heinicke finished 12-for-19 for 137 yards.

The game’s second turnover was a muff by Washington punt returner Steven Sims Jr., resulting in the only points in the first quarter. The ball was batted into the end zone, where Carolina’s Brandon Zylstra recovered for a touchdown.

The Panthers added to their lead on Mike Davis’ 1-yard fourth-down touchdown run in the second quarter. Bridgewater’s 14-yard scoring pass to Robby Anderson helped Carolina to a 20-0 edge.

Washington scored on Dustin Hopkins’ field goals of 48 and 26 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively.

The Panthers were less than two minutes away from holding an opponent without a touchdown for the second time this season. They had a shutout of the Detroit Lions in November.

Rivera was in his ninth season as Carolina’s coach when he was fired during the 2019 season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) warms up on the field before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington QB Haskins apologizes for protocol breach

Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins apologized Tuesday for a reported COVID-19 protocol breach following Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Photos surfaced on social media this week showing Haskins apparently partying in a strip club without wearing a mask.

“I want to publicly apologize for my actions this past Sunday. I spoke with Coach (Ron) Rivera yesterday and took full accountability for putting the team at risk. It was irresponsible and immature of me and I accept responsibility for my action,” Haskins posted on Twitter.

“I also want to apologize for creating a distraction for my team during our playoff push. I will learn and grow from this and do what’s best for the team moving forward.”

The NFL Network reported that team officials are handling the matter internally after discussions with the league on Monday.

Under the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol, going to a nightclub without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is punishable by a maximum fine of one week’s salary or up to a four-game suspension.

Haskins, 23, was reportedly fined nearly $5,000 by the team in October for a previous protocol violation for making a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel.

Haskins, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, made his first start since Week 4 on Sunday. He completed 38 of 55 passes for 295 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the 20-15 home loss to Seattle.

In six games (five starts) this season, Haskins has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,285 yards with five TDs and five picks.

Washington (6-8) holds a one-game lead in the NFC East over the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys heading into Sunday’s game with the visiting Carolina Panthers.

Alex Smith could return from a calf injury to make the start Sunday. Taylor Heinicke was the backup for Haskins in the Seattle game.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera talks with an official against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Rivera rebuts revenge factor in clash with Panthers

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said this week’s game against the Carolina Panthers is all about clinching the NFC East, not earning revenge against his former employer.

Rivera’s team has a one-game lead in the loss column on every other team in the division, and a win over the Panthers this Sunday — combined with a New York Giants loss — would clinch the division for Washington (6-8). It would be Washington’s first postseason appearance since 2015.

“This is about the organization winning and getting into the playoffs and not Ron Rivera getting revenge,” Rivera said Monday. “That’s the last thing I want it to be.”

Rivera was fired by the Panthers last season after a Week 13 loss to Washington. He finished with a 76-63-1 record in eight-plus years in Carolina, including a Super Bowl appearance following the 2015 season.

“If this had been our opener, believe me it would be a highly emotional game. But it’s not,” Rivera said. “The consequences of this game is about this team, this organization, trying to be relevant and trying to take a step forward. I want to see us focus on the reasons why we want to win the game as opposed to a personal reason.”

The Panthers are 4-10 under new coach Matt Rhule.

–Field Level Media

Jul 25, 2019; Spartanburg, SC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Taylor Heinicke (6) looks to pass during training camp held at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Washington signs QB Heinicke from practice squad

The Washington Football Team signed quarterback Taylor Heinicke from the practice squad on Saturday to back up Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins will start in place of veteran Alex Smith when Washington (6-7) hosts the Seattle Seahawks (9-4) on Sunday.

Smith sustained a calf injury last week in a victory over the San Francisco 49ers and was ruled out. The team’s third quarterback, Kyle Allen, started four games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

Heinicke, 27, has appeared in seven games (one start) in the NFL. He spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, as well as the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL last year. In the NFL, he has completed 36 of 58 pass attempts for 330 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Washington also announced the release of wide receiver Jeff Badet from the practice squad. The team signed the former XFL receiver in September.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Sav'ell Smalls (17) and linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui (58) sack Utah Utes quarterback Jake Bentley (8) during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 programs Utah, Washington skipping bowl season

Pac-12 programs Utah and Washington each announced Friday that it will not pursue opportunities to play in bowl games.

Washington cited medical reasons for its decision. The Huskies (3-1) had to pull out of Friday night’s Pac-12 title game due to being unable to field the required 53 scholarship players dues to COVID-19 issues within the program.

Utah (2-2) will conclude its season Saturday against Washington State. The school said the well-being of the players was the driving factor in its decision.

The Utes were unable to start their season until Nov. 21 due to COVID-19 issues.

“Our No. 1 priority is the well-being of our players, and we support the decision they have made,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “They have worked extremely hard since they returned to campus this summer, and they have shown tremendous resiliency in dealing with adversity and challenges.

“We’re proud of what they have accomplished on the field and the way they have handled everything off the field. We look forward to beginning our preparations for the 2021 season when the players return to campus in January.”

Washington coach Jimmy Lake said earlier this week that the team’s entire offensive line was unavailable this week.

“Our guys have given up so much this season,” Lake said in a statement on Friday. “I would like to thank them for how they have handled everything. I would also like to give special recognition to our seniors who poured so much into this program, we are so proud of them for everything they have accomplished on and off the field.”

Oregon replaced Washington as the opponent against Southern California in the Pac-12 title games.

Fellow Pac-12 programs Stanford, UCLA and Washington State previously announced they wouldn’t play in bowl games.

–Field Level Media