However, McCarron’s start didn’t last very long.
In the second quarter of the Falcons’ 37-17 loss to Miami on August 21, 2021, he went down with a non-contact right knee injury after he handed the ball off to running back Qadree Ollison.
He attempted to hobble to the sidelines at first but struggled to make it there without the help of the medical team. He ended the night early completing three of six passes for 43 yards with one run for seven yards.
“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” head coach Arthur Smith told reporters after the game. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.
“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”
An MRI later revealed that McCarron had torn his ACL and would miss the entire 2021 season before it even began.
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McCarron Is “Ready” for His NFL Return
Now, just a few weeks away from training camp, McCarron is “ready” to bounce back.
The free-agent QB joined NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” on Monday to talk about his recovery process in hopes of getting back on the field.
“I feel great,” McCarron said. “I was blessed to have a great team around me with Dr. (Lyle) Cane, our doctor at Alabama, and Kevin Wilk, who I did a bunch of my rehab with. I got cleared at four-and-a-half months out from surgery, so I’ve just been working on the strength and getting everything back normal, and I really feel great right now. …
“You never know what your future holds, what it is in this game, so I’m just ready, waiting for a call. But right now, I’m enjoying my time off and being able to be a dad and being around my three boys for the first time in a while.”
McCarron remains confident in himself and thinks he still has plenty of juice left in him as an established backup QB.
“I think I can always play,” McCarron said. “I’ve never questioned that. But I think if you ask anybody that’s been in the QB room with me, I’ve also been a fantastic teammate. Listen, whether it’s teaching a young guy or being there for an older guy, I love being a part of the room. I feel like I’m a good personality, great teammate and good energy to have around.”
Falcons Signed McCarron After Passing Up QB in Draft
The Falcons opted to not draft one of several top-tier rookie quarterbacks out of the 2021 NFL draft class and instead turned to the veteran free agent, McCarron.
The Bama product was originally a fifth-round selection by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2014 NFL draft. Over the last seven years, McCarron has spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans following his stint with Cincy.
He played the 2020 season as Deshaun Watson’s backup, appearing in just two games for Houston.
So far in his NFL career, McCarron has played in 17 games with four starts, having completed 109 of 174 passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.