The Bills may draft a QB, but A.J. McCarron doesn’t plan on backing down from competition

Sal Maiorana
Democrat and Chronicle
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A.J. McCarron meets with the media after day two of the Bills’ offseason workout program.

ORCHARD PARK — A.J. McCarron isn’t wasting his time concerning himself with what the Buffalo Bills might do in next week’s NFL Draft.

Since the day in mid-March when he signed a two-year, $10-million free agent contract to join the Bills, he has known that his new team was very likely going to pick a quarterback — probably in the first round and maybe even high in the first round — and would be looking at that player as their franchise quarterback of the future.

“I can’t worry about that because it creates mental clutter for myself, and if I create mental clutter for myself then I can’t become the best player and teammate I need to be for this team,” McCarron said Tuesday following the Bills’ second day of the voluntary workout portion of the offseason program. “For me to worry about ‘ifs’ and what could happen, it’s just not part of my DNA. I’ve never been that way and will never do it.”

McCarron has seen a few of the quarterbacks who have made pre-draft visits in the team facility, and he has gone out of his way to say hello and ask “how the process was going for them.” If the Bills pick one of those kids, McCarron will welcome him to the team with open arms, but it won’t change McCarron’s own process.

He signed with the Bills because he knows he’s going to get a real opportunity — unlike in Cincinnati — to win the starting job. So even if one of these young studs walks across the stage next Thursday night in Dallas and slips a Bills jersey over their head, McCarron’s focus will remain fixated on being Buffalo’s starter on opening day.

A.J. McCarron made four starts with the Bengals including one playoff game, and Cincinnati went 2-2 in those games.

“I’m confident in myself,” he said. “I’ve always had self-confidence, I don’t see that as a knock. I think us as people should believe in what we do, believe in yourself, and that’s what pushes you to be great and to not let people down. It’s a great feeling. You think about it, there's 32 of these jobs in the whole world, that’s awesome. I’m pumped, excited to get at it and have that chance.”

McCarron has certainly been that player in the past, first in high school and then at Alabama where he led the Crimson Tide to three appearances in the national championship game, winning it twice. For the past four years, his path was blocked by Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and he started only four games for the Bengals — all in 2015 — when Dalton suffered a knee injury.

It was quite a system shock to become a clipboard carrier after all the success he’d enjoyed, but the way McCarron looks at it, every player has a role and being the backup was his in Cincinnati, so he did it to the best of his ability.

“You learn to adapt,” he said. “When I first got to college, I went from starting four years in high school to learning how to be a good servant, which is what coach (Nick) Saban taught me. Figuring out how to be the best teammate from a different role. That was the same thought process when I got to Cincinnati; I’m not the starter, so how can I help (Dalton) or anybody else on the team be better on Sunday?”

Right now, he is the starter in Buffalo, and even though he’s been a Bill for barely a month, his position dictates that he has to be one of the team leaders. He has already made his presence known, keeping in constant contact with his new teammates so that they can build relationships.

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“A bunch of us have gotten together for multiple dinners and hung out,” he said. “It’s a steady building of chemistry, and even talking to the guys going into the summer, all of us going somewhere and working things out. Just learn all you can, get everybody’s numbers, texting them, maybe even bothering them, but that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I’m going to keep doing. As a quarterback, you have to take that approach.”

A.J. McCarron played sparingly in Cincinnati, but now he has a legitimate chance to be the starter in Buffalo.

McCarron said the next few weeks are an important time for the team, particularly him, as they can get to know each other without the pressure of being coached.

“Just come in and work day in and day out, build a chemistry as best as we can with each and every guy,” he said. “Actually become a team, create a culture of family and pushing each other to be the best that we can be to be able to win ballgames. That’s what it comes down to. This is the best time to do that.”

There will be new players to add to the mix when the draft is over, and there will almost certainly be a new addition in the quarterback room, too, and that’s fine with McCarron.

“I don’t worry about labels,” he said. “I go out and play my game and let the wins do the talking; that’s what we’re here for, to win ballgames. Winning is winning, that’s what keeps everybody happy.”

NFL Draft party with Sal Maiorana

Join Democrat and Chronicle Buffalo Bills reporter Sal Maiorana from at MacGregor’s Grill and Tap Room in Henrietta from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 23 to talk football in advance of the 2018 NFL Draft. 

What positions are the Bills looking to solidify? Who will be the team's first pick? Sal will share some behind-the-scenes insight from One Bills Drive and take questions. This exclusive event at MacGregor’s in Henrietta will include 
hors d'oeuvres. Beverages will be available for purchase. 

Admission is $12; $8 for Insiders. Tickets are limited. Subscribers, go to Insider to find your exclusive promo code!


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