AJ McCarron News Conference
December 16, 2015
Paul Brown Stadium
How many hours have you been here the last two days?
" A ton. Myself and Keith (QB Keith Wenning) have been up here a lot, putting in a lot of work, and we just want to show the guys we're here and we're going to work our tails off. Like I said after the Steelers game, I want to show the guys that they can depend on me, that I'm here and I'm ready to play."
Is it too much to think you get your timing with receivers in only one week?
"No, you can. I think it's not just when you're out on the practice field. I think it rolls over to the film room. I was really proud: I had a bunch of receivers up here yesterday watching film with us, and guys really sat in there for a while and took notes and took notice of what I was saying and what I wanted on certain plays. Guys are dedicated. We'll definitely work our tails off. I felt like we had pretty good chemistry during the game, just to be thrown in like I was. I thought we threw the ball pretty well on them, and it's a pretty good defense. We just have to build off that and keep progressing, and we'll be fine."
An Alabama quarterback hasn't won in NFL since the '80s, does that motivate you?
"No. Alabama's Alabama. The Cincinnati Bengals; that's why I'm here now. I'm worried about winning this game for the North championship. That's my number one priority. I'm worried about these guys. As for the history: that's history, so I'm not worried about that."
Is the SF defense similar at all to Steelers defense you just faced?
"They're both really athletic. San Fran's been playing a lot of great teams really tough at home. They have a really good group of defensive guys and they fly around the ball and make plays. The schemes are a little different, but from a personnel standpoint, because we're in the NFL, you know they can play. I don't know any teams I've watched this year that don't have guys that can play. So we have a challenge, and this team is ready for it come Sunday."
What did A.J. Green say to you after the game on Sunday?
"To be honest with you, if he did say anything, I don't remember. Everything was a blur, it just happened so quick. But we talked yesterday and just talked about certain things, what I'm looking for and hey, 'This is where I'll put the ball.'. I think we're just really ready to get out there, myself and the whole offensive group. We're really ready to get out there today and fly around the ball and make some plays."
The AJ to A.J. connection seems to be working …
"I feel good. We hit on my first two passes in the game, and then we hit a lot of deep ins during the game on them. I think it's just him knowing where he needs to be and me knowing where he's going to be. I don't see any problems. I feel like all year long, we've had good chemistry when I've been thrown in, whether it's in practice or in the games. I'm excited about the challenge."
What is the importance of possibly having Tyler Eifert back for this game?
"Eif is huge for us, especially in the red area. It's going to be awesome. I told him I want to create some more memories like Chicago (preseason game), where I hit him a couple times. I'm just excited to play with this group. We have such an unbelievable group and I'm just excited to get out there and play with them and have fun."
Some guys say the Chicago game was what showed them you could run the offense, but when do you think you got that respect?
"During OTAs and all that, when Coach gave me a couple opportunities to get in there and give AD (Dalton) a rest, I felt like we did a good job then. But it's never the same until you get thrown into a game atmosphere. So Chicago was just kind of relieving for me. It's like I realized I can play this game. Myself, I have confidence I can play at this level, and you do it in practice. To do it in a game is totally different; to get in there and to see it happening and see the throws that you always dreamed of and always pictured yourself doing. To see them actually being real throws was definitely a confidence booster for me. It's just to say, 'Hey, not only do you think you can play this game at this level.' I feel like ever since then, we've been fine with that."
During OTAs and training camp, I can remember defensive guys talking about what you were doing. When you hear guys on the other side of the ball say those things, do you have to feel good?
"Going against our defense is always a challenge, and when they give you praise, you kind of take it and run before they change their mind (laughs). Going against our defense all year long has been an awesome challenge for not only myself but all the scout team guys. I try to preach that to them every day, just tell them, 'This is a challenge for us. We don't get a Sunday challenge during our time. This is our challenge to go against our number one defense, who is one of the best defenses in the NFL, and to really push ourselves day in and day out.' It feels really good when they come to you like, 'Man, you're on fire today' or any compliment you can get."
You have a veteran offensive line. How confident are you in what they can do for you?
"I'm not complaining with having those guys up there. It's an unbelievable group to play with. I said that after the Chicago game, getting thrown in like that. After that game, I said it feels like you have all day to throw sometimes. The whole line is just unbelievable. I love playing with them, and hopefully we can make it fun and have some fun this weekend."
How much have you heard from friends and maybe former teammates?
"I've heard a ton. I kind of feel like a jerk sometimes because I haven't been able to respond to everybody. I kind of wish there was a thing where you could highlight everyone and send a group message. But, it's just hard. If they see this, tell them I really appreciate everything – from the people back in Mobile, all the praise I've been getting, it just makes you feel proud. I really appreciate it and am very thankful and humbled by this whole process. I'm just blessed, so I really appreciate it."
Do you remember your first start at Alabama?
"Yeah, it was against Kent State. I had two touchdowns, two interceptions – almost the same as Pittsburgh, but we won."
What do you remember about your emotions going in?
"I was kind of splitting time with Phillip (Sims), and Coach told me I had the nod to start that game. I knew we had a great team then. Both of my interceptions were just bad luck. I don't think I had any bad interceptions, like Sunday. It was just an unreal experience, kind of like Sunday was. I guess in college I knew I was about to play and I was trying to make sure I wasn't too cold or too hot, didn't have too much on or not enough, so it was a little different than being thrown in there. It was just a great experience and it led to some fun times."
Do you remember your first game, when you were three?
"No, but my favorite play from when I was younger – not to ramble on with useless stuff but – it was toward the end of the game and we called a QB sneak, and literally the whole line and the defensive line created a horseshoe. Just like a big 'U' and no one was going anywhere. And I was just standing there, running like this (in place). I turned and looked around, and my running back is standing behind me, and he's just looking at me. And we were little kids, so I decided to run out of the horseshoe backwards, and everyone just stayed right there, and no one ever saw me, and I ran down the sidelines. Then, the fastest kid in the park league caught me. I was 40 yards in front of him, and he hawks me down, catches me at the one-inch line. I'm like, 'You're not going to let me score?' I remember that."
Everyone has a take on what leadership is. What's yours?
"I think you can lead by all different ways. Mine, I just feel like I always play the game with passion. I try to get everybody else to show a side of them they might not want to show or might not show all the time. Show a little excitement, do a little crazy dance, do something. So I kind of told A.J. (Green) that, and then he punts the ball (kicked McCarron's first TD pass ball into the stands). I wish I had taken that back (laughs), but that's the way I've always played the game before.
"Brett Favre is my favorite quarterback of all time. It's not just because of all his decision-making, but the way he played the game. It always looked like he was that four-year-old kid that just won the starting job by raising his right hand and his left hand, and getting it correct and being the only one. That's what I love about the game, because it's a game. Yes we get paid a great amount and it's a blessing, but at the end of the day, it's a game, and you have to play it like you're a kid in the backyard just having fun."