AJ McCarron is no longer at the University of Alabama, but he is going to school.
Cincinnati’s fifth round draft pick has been rehabbing a sore throwing shoulder since joining the Bengals in May, so he’s tried to treat his rookie year as a “redshirt” season while studying established NFL quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell.
“The biggest thing that I’m taking away from this is trying to learn everything that I can from Andy and Jason, week in and week out,” AJ told me. “I can’t thank Mr. Brown and them enough for taking care of me and looking out for my best interests. It’s been a blessing to be here with the great staff and organization that we have. Hopefully there’s better stuff in the future for sure.”
McCarron is currently on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list which is a deceptive term because it includes injuries sustained while playing college football. AJ says that his shoulder woes resulted from the wear and tear of being a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide.
“I think it was just starting a lot of games in the SEC,” said McCarron. “You definitely get beat up some and I was also playing through some things at the same time. I never really had a chance to rest my body coming from my senior year and getting ready for the draft. This was a good time to give myself some time to heal and rest up and it feels great.
“My trainer Nick Cosgray has been unbelievable and has helped me tremendously. The back of my shoulder feels great and I feel like I’m throwing the ball really well with a lot of zip at the yardage that I want to be throwing.”
McCarron is among the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, going 36-4 as a starter at Alabama and leading the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012. Now he’s trying to learn from a teammate in Andy Dalton who went 42-7 as the starting quarterback at TCU and has led the Bengals to a 33-21 record in his first 54 NFL starts (including playoffs).
“I like to watch his footwork,” said McCarron. “From his old film and now this year, I can definitely see a difference and this is my first year being around him. I like to watch his footwork in the pocket. When he throws to his left he does a good job of getting his feet back that way. Using baseball terms, he’s not falling off of the mound when he’s throwing back to his left, so that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve been trying to take away is footwork and how he moves in the pocket.”
He’s also formed a good relationship with 32-year-old Jason Campbell – despite the heated Alabama-Auburn rivalry.
“I mess with Jason that it feels like I’ve been watching him since preschool,” said McCarron. “I used to love watching him play in college and being able to be around him right now after he’s had so many years in the NFL – it’s just awesome to sit back and learn from guys of that caliber and it’s definitely a pretty cool experience.
“I’m married to an Auburn girl so I don’t take (the rivalry) that seriously.”
Ah yes, perhaps you’ve heard of Mrs. McCarron.
AJ planned to spend the Bengals’ bye weekend back home in Alabama spending time with his family and celebrating his grandmother’s birthday. Then it’s back to work at Paul Brown Stadium attending meetings, studying film, and continuing to strengthen his shoulder. Because of his current status on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, McCarron can throw passes as part of his rehab program but cannot take part in full-team practices.
“It’s not the best feeling sitting there and having to watch practice every day for however many weeks I’ve been watching,” AJ told me. “It hurts, but I know that everything happens for a reason and God’s got a plan. You just have to enjoy life and take it day by day and better times will come.”
McCarron is required to sit out the first six weeks of the regular season. At that point, there is a five week period where he is eligible to begin practicing. If the Bengals choose that option, they would have a 21-day window to decide whether to active him to the 53-man roster.
“I feel good,” said McCarron. “I’m back to my old self and feel 100 percent. I’m just waiting to see what we’re going to do.”
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