CINCINNATI -- Former Cincinnati Bengals backup Greg McElroy chimed in Thursday night on the controversy surrounding fifth-round quarterback AJ McCarron when he spoke honestly and openly about his former college teammate's place in the NFL, and the rumors that character flaws contributed to his draft slide.
Speaking to AL.com at an Alabama football spring tour event in Nashville, McElroy, a former Alabama quarterback and new analyst for ESPN's SEC Network, said he felt bad for McCarron in the wake of rumors that helped spoil the 23-year-old's draft weekend. McElroy added, however, that he felt McCarron also needed to take ownership of the overall situation.
"I feel like he needs to stop making excuses to a certain extent," McElroy said. "But, I think AJ, he's going to go to a place, a good situation, a really good organization, and all of those things will be water under the bridge and he'll be able to prove himself worth of wherever it is he was picked by his play. And that's all that matters at this point."
McCarron was drafted 164th overall last Saturday. When OTAs begin in Cincinnati in two weeks, he's expected to be the No. 3 quarterback on the roster behind starter Andy Dalton and veteran backup Jason Campbell.
Two days after McCarron was drafted, the Bengals released backup Josh Johnson, completing their quarterbacks purge. Earlier this month, fellow backup Zac Robinson was cut after spending all of last season on the physically unable to perform list. McElroy, who was the team's practice squad quarterback, retired earlier this offseason, ending his three-year career.
"I feel bad. I do," McElroy said about McCarron and the weekend rumors that his pre-draft behavior "rubbed teams the wrong way." "Everything he's said has been taken out of context, certainly. But I think people are also looking for him to say something, and I don't necessarily think that's fair. But I also think he created that by putting undue expectations on himself in the actual draft situation."
McCarron admitted earlier this week to telling team executives he thought he was better than some of the mid-round projections he had been receiving.
"I guess when teams met with me, they wanted me to say I'll be a third-round guy and a mediocre quarterback," McCarron said Wednesday. "Maybe I was too honest or something. I'm an honest person and say what I feel. That's how I feel about my play. If that turns a team off, then at the end of the day, to me, they didn't really want you. I was myself."
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was among those who reported last Saturday that some team executives weren't impressed by McCarron following pre-draft meetings with him. NFL Network reported that some were bugged by how cocky they felt McCarron came off.
"He was critical of other people," Schefter also said.
"A lot of people will confuse confidence with cockiness," Gilberry said. "With where he's been, I know where he's from and I know how he grew up. I know him. And it's like I told him, 'Everybody's not going to like you and this world isn't for everybody to like you. The ones that respect you, respect them. And the ones that don't, you show them why they should.'"
McCarron must have taken that advice to heart.
"Hopefully at the end of the day I'll get the last laugh," McCarron said.
McElroy, who beat McCarron for Alabama's starting quarterback job McCarron's redshirt freshman season, shares the rookie's optimism.
"He does have a fiery personality. He has a chip on his shoulder. All of those things are accurate," McElroy said. "And I think AJ is a great kid. I think that right now, he just needed the draft to be settled and maybe not say as much as he did, but that's all been said and done now. Now he'll be able to go forward and speak through his play and he'll do a great job of that."