AJ McCarron News Conference
December 23, 2015
Paul Brown Stadium
What was your learning experience from the Steelers game to the 49ers game?
"I think the biggest thing was turnovers, for sure. I had some in the first game that was just not me, but you make those mistakes and you have to learn from them. In my situation, I've got to learn from them quick and play better. I felt like we did that as an offense in the San Fran game and me personally, I felt like I did a better job of playing well and taking care of the ball."
Does this week feel different, with the Monday night game and all that's at stake?
"To me, I don't think it feels any different. It's another football game. Go out, the field's still 120 yards and 53 1/2 or whatever it is wide. Just going out and playing football. It's the media's job and the fans, to blow the game up. But our mindset should be that it's another game. It's just like San Fran, where we're going into a hostile environment, and we've got to have each other's backs, and take care of the football and give us a chance to win the game."
How nice is it to have full complement back on offense potentially with Tyler Eifert and AJ (Green)?
"Well yeah, it's always nice to have those guys full-time for sure, but I thought the guys that stepped in did a good job when we had to switch Marvin Jones and Mo (Sanu) up, and TK (Tyler Kroft) was coming in there (replacing Eifert). Everybody stepped up the way they were supposed to and did an unbelievable job. As coach has said all year long, next man up, that's our mentality, and I thought we did an excellent job of that. If we have A.J. and Eifert, it's going to be unbelievable. Definitely not going to complain having those guys. But if we don't, like coach says, next man up and let's go take care of business."
Do you quarterback differently at home than on the road?
"I don't know. I don't think so. I think you're just playing to the game. Like the San Fran game, they were turning the ball over and I knew the biggest thing for us was to take care of the football, and we were going to put ourselves in a situation to win the ballgame. So I think it just really varies on how the game's going. If you can take some more chances or not, managing the game."
When people talk about 'managing the game,' you don't mind that term do you?
"Yeah, I think first and foremost, I'm not trying to compare myself to any quarterback, but all great quarterbacks -- I'm not calling myself a great quarterback -- just saying all the great quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have been a game manager of some sort, whether it's knowing the clock, knowing the situation, when to take a sack, when to throw the ball away, when you can take a little more risk, when not to. There's a bunch of different aspects that go into that thinking and that thought process. I don't view it as a negative at all. Me personally, I've never viewed it as a negative. Even in college, I took it as a compliment. When you win ballgames, people can say whatever they want as long as you win."
Is the biggest learning curve in the NFL knowing when to take that chance, because the windows of opportunity are so small because of the speed on defense?
"I feel like I've been here, at least been practicing, for two years or really a year and a half. So I feel I have a great feel. Yeah, it's a little different from college because usually in college you're going against 11 guys on defense, and eight or nine of those guys are really good, but you've got maybe two or three or however many where you think, 'We might be able to go after this guy.' When you get to this level, it's the best of the best and everybody can play. When you see your opportunity, you can't miss. You've got to hit them and capitalize on them. Timing-wise and windows and everything, I feel real comfortable with all that. We've just got to go out and execute when we see them and capitalize on them."
How have you been able to get the timing down so well on the deep ball?
Other than we've got great receivers … My job is to put it in the right place and allow them to have the opportunity to make the play. I don't know, I feel I've always had good timing. I know I've got some unbelievable receivers. When you have those type of players out wide, it makes your job a lot easier.
"If anything, those guys deserve the credit. They do an excellent job of getting up on top of the corners, finding the windows and going up and making plays. I can't say enough good things about those guys from A.J. (Green) to Mo (Sanu) to Marv (Jones) to (Brandon) Tate, anybody that's in there I feel comfortable with. I feel like we've done a really good job of hitting the deep balls, we've only missed a couple. Hopefully we can keep that up, we're going to need it."
Are those comfortable throws for you?
"Yeah I feel comfortable throwing just about any route on the field. I don't think there's one where I really don't want to throw that ball. But, I feel like I have a good timing with the deep ball, and I know where to put the ball. But at the same time, like I said, it makes my job a lot easier when you've got receivers like that. They do an excellent job of getting on top of the corner, getting back outside, giving you enough leverage and room to make that throw. So it's just my job to put it in their area, and those guys do an excellent job of going up and getting it.
How different is changing protections at the line in the NFL as compared to when you were at Alabama?
"I think it's pretty similar. I felt like in college, I did a lot of that. I'm growing each play, each game when it comes to the NFL level. So I feel really comfortable with it. We made some really big checks last game in protection against San Fran. Also when you make checks like that and hit them with a big play, it hurts the defense. The defensive coordinator kind of second-guesses that call next time or sometimes they'll even check it off the list and say, 'We're not going back with that.'
"That's the biggest thing when you get those opportunities and you hit them. That hurts the defense the most and kind of makes the coordinator question himself on should I call this, should I pressure, should I drop back. So it puts a little doubt into their minds."
Is it harder to check to a protection or to change a play at the line, something Andy (Dalton) is very good at?
"Like I've said before, I'm not going to see everything the same way as Andy. I might not see it as fast; or I might. One thing I can say is, I spend a lot of time preparing myself. Each week I'm up here early. I don't want to let the guys down. That's the biggest thing for me is being prepared and knowing my job, knowing when to get us into the right situation, knowing when to check out of a bad situation. So I feel comfortable with everything."
Do you look forward to visiting places like Denver and experiencing what it's like to play there?
"Yeah, first just being in the NFL is a special opportunity and just a blessing. But to play in the places that you saw growing up when you turned the TV on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night football or Monday night football or whenever it was, to see where some of the all-time greats played, it's definitely special. It's an unbelievable opportunity for us as a team, for us as individuals. It's going to be special no matter where we play. It's just a blessing to be in this league and playing every Sunday."
Do you remember seeing (John) Elway play?
"Yeah, I remember watching him. Growing up, I didn't really watch a whole lot of NFL football. But yeah, I remember watching Elway."
You haven't played in many cold games. How does it change your preparation?
"I don't' think at all. I'm going to prepare the same way. Instead of one long sleeve, I might just have two long sleeves. But I mean other than that, I think it's pretty much the same way. When you're out there playing, it's a lot different from when you're standing on the sideline and you're freezing and you're trying to sit on the heater bench as long as possible or trying to stay warm any way possible.
"But when you're out there playing, you stop thinking about it. You don't even notice it until you go to the sideline and you kind of calm down a little and realize how cold it is. Other than that, I've never noticed it when I'm playing. So hopefully it stays that way."
You were calm after the win at SF like you expected to win. Where does your expectation to win come from?
"I think it's just the great teams and organizations I've been part of, whether it's being at the University of Alabama or starting back to park ball days. My park ball team was known for winning. It's just a level you kind of uphold yourself to and really compete within yourself and within the team to be as perfect as possible.
"Everything's not going to be perfect in a game -- we want it to be but it's not going to be, that's football -- but to play with the best of your ability. I feel like I'm always calm. I show my emotion inside the white lines, and when I leave the field, I'm pleased with the win but I try to never get too high or too low,
" I try to find a happy medium and stay there. When I leave the field, it turns into my personal life, and I try to leave business and personal life as separate things. But inside the white lines, I think the guys will tell you I play with a lot of passion and hopefully a lot of the excitement for them. So I just try to hold the team and myself up to that standard."