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AJ McCarron’s XFL Success Fuels NFL Return to Bengals

Key Points:

  • AJ McCarron returns to Cincinnati Bengals, the team that originally drafted him in 2014.
  • His recent performance with the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL was MVP level.
  • Joe Burrow’s uncertain status opens a window for McCarron’s possible NFL return.

The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to the XFL for reinforcements. As Joe Burrow’s calf injury clouds his ability to start, the Bengals have signed AJ McCarron to their practice squad, a move announced by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

A Familiar Face Returns

McCarron is no stranger to Cincinnati. Drafted by the Bengals in 2014, the Alabama standout quarterback spent four seasons in the Queen City before venturing into various NFL rosters. McCarron’s previous tenure with the Bengals saw him play 17 NFL games, 11 of which were with Cincinnati. In those appearances, he threw for 1,173 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The XFL Impact

But it’s McCarron’s recent stint with the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL that has grabbed attention. After suffering an ACL tear in 2021 that took him out of the NFL scene, McCarron reemerged in the spring with the Battlehawks. There, he passed for 2,150 yards and led the league with 24 touchdowns in just nine games. His performance not only led St. Louis to a 7–3 record but also boosted his stock considerably, laying the groundwork for his NFL return.

Quarterback Contingencies

With Joe Burrow’s status still uncertain due to a calf injury aggravated in Week 2 against the Ravens, Cincinnati is keeping its options open. Backup Jake Browning and practice squad addition Reid Sinnett, a former XFL quarterback with the San Antonio Brahmas, is also in the mix. If Burrow cannot play, Browning is likely to start.

McCarron vs. Other Options

While the Bengals also considered other options, such as hosting former Ravens and Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley for a workout, the nod to McCarron reflects his proven experience and recent form. McCarron’s XFL statistics and leadership were hard to ignore, giving him an edge in the competition for a spot on the Bengals’ roster.

The Big Picture

As Cincinnati prepares to host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, McCarron’s role in the upcoming game remains a subject of speculation. However, his XFL performance and his familiarity with the Bengals’ system make him a significant asset. It remains to be seen if McCarron will continue to rise and solidify his spot on the Bengals’ roster or if he will once again seek to prove himself in other leagues.

Whether or not McCarron steps onto the field come Monday, his journey—studded with setbacks and comebacks—is a compelling one. From NFL obscurity due to injuries to XFL stardom and now back to the NFL, McCarron’s tale is a testimony to perseverance and a lesson for any player in alternative football leagues looking to break through.

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Mark Perry, a devoted sports journalist and founder of XFL News Hub, has been a key figure in XFL coverage since its 2018 revival. Launching XFL News Hub soon after the league's return announcement, Mark has established the platform as a primary source for comprehensive XFL updates. Renowned for his in-depth knowledge and commitment to sports journalism, Mark actively engages the XFL community, welcoming interactions at

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