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Falcons feel "optimistic" about Taylor Heinicke's ankle injury as Week 18 practices begin

Arthur Smith says the Falcons will monitor Heinicke's progress throughout the week. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Taylor Heinicke both used the word "optimistic" when describing the outlook of Heinicke's ankle injury as Week 18 practices begin Wednesday.

Heinicke tweaked his left ankle in the Falcons' Week 16 win over the Indianapolis Colts. He was limited in the following Wednesday and Thursday practices in the lead up to last Sunday's game on the road in Chicago. However, he was not given a game designation at the week's end and started Sunday's game without issue.

The Falcons quarterback said he did not begin feeling the effects of the injury until late in the third quarter. By the end of the game, the Falcons had made the decision to pull Heinicke, replacing him with Desmond Ridder to finish out the game. After the game, Smith clarified the decision to put Ridder on the field was a direct response to Heinicke's ankle injury.

Asked about Heinicke's prognosis for the Falcons' final regular season game in New Orleans this coming weekend, Smith said Atlanta would monitor Heinicke throughout the week, much like the team did through Week 17.

"He's going to do everything he can to play," Smith said. "We'll have to monitor that. Obviously, (he) was sore last week. That's why he was limited. Clearly, (he) felt good enough to play.

"Like a lot of guys in Week 18, nobody feels great. So, we'll just have to monitor it, but I know Taylor is going to put everything he can into trying to go."

Regarding Heinicke's game status when the Falcons travel to New Orleans to face the Saints, Smith said Monday that the Falcons "should have a good idea by Friday." He followed up on Wednesday saying that is still the plan, but he added that he is more optimistic with Week 18 practices beginning.

Heinicke echoed the plan, while saying they're all still weighing the possibility of him not being 100%, too.

"You want to go out there and play with your guys. You know, we've battled all year to get to this point, and you want to go out there and be able to play, but at the same time, you want to take a step back and say, 'Hey, am I actually the best option?'" Heinicke said. "So, it's a hard game to play there. We're going to practice this week, see how it feels. And then ultimately, we'll make a decision late in the week."

Heinicke has made five appearances in 2023 with four starts. In total, Heinicke is 74-of-136 through the air with a 54.41 completion percentage. He's thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions, three of which came in last week's loss to the Bears.

As the Falcons begin Week 18's practices, the team does feel the quarterback is trending in the right direction. The quarterback in question does, too.

"I feel pretty optimistic about it," Heinicke said.

Take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears during Week 17.

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