After a six-year NFL career that included a brief but important tenure with the Buffalo Bills, A.J. McCarron has the chance to be a starting quarterback again.
The former Alabama quarterback, who last played in the NFL in the 2020 season before suffering an injury the following preseason, will be the starter for the St. Louis Battlehawks when the XFL kicks off its comeback season this weekend. McCarron said he is excited to continue his playing career, especially after suffering an injury that cut short his time in the NFL.
McCarron Not Ready for Retirement
McCarron saw little time across his six seasons in the NFL, appearing in 17 games and starting four. His NFL career came to an abrupt end in the 2021 preseason, when he suffered an ACL injury that brought an end to his season.
Speaking to Al.com, the 32-year-old McCarron said he never thought about retirement and feels ready to play after rehabbing his torn ACL.
“I haven’t had that thought of hanging them up,” McCarron said. “Guys are playing for so many years now, and my body feels great. In ‘21 was a freak deal – non-contact ACL. I started football at the age of 3, and that was the first injury that knocked me out a whole season. I really never had that thought.”
McCarron added that he wavered on whether to join the XFL, wondering whether it would be better to wait for another NFL opportunity or seize the chance to start playing again. He ultimately decided to take a starting job and try to make his mark in the new league.
“The decision for me was: Do I wait around and join somebody’s team in the NFL late, try to do these workouts and fly here and fly there or do I just want to go play?” McCarron said. “Listen, I’ve made enough money in my career. I don’t live a crazy lifestyle, and I have everything that I’ve ever wanted. For me, it’s back to just playing. I love to play. I love to help lead a team and lead a group of guys to try to achieve greatness, and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
McCarron now has that chance in the XFL. The Battlehawks used their top pick on the former Bills quarterback, one of a handful of players with extensive NFL experience selected in the inaugural season of the newly rebooted league.
McCarron’s Role in Bills History
Though McCarron never made a regular-season roster with the Bills, he still played an important role in their history. The team signed him in 2018, looking for a veteran to start while then-rookie Josh Allen developed. McCarron lost out as the Bills ended up naming Nathan Peterman as their starter and traded McCarron to the then-Oakland Raiders.
It would turn out to be a disastrous decision, with Peterman being pulled after one start and Allen getting an earlier start to his career than many at the time expected. Peterman wouldn’t last much longer, being released in December as the Bills signed veterans Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley to serve as mentors for Allen.