MONTGOMERY | - It has been a trying week for former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.
It started with plummeting into the fifth round of last weekend's NFL Draft. Then reports of McCarron's attitude rubbing NFL teams the wrong way surfaced, offering a reason for his descent. After the draft, he was criticized for his comments about playing injured at Alabama and that "he sacrificed a lot to play for Coach (Nick) Saban and that university."
Saban defended his former signal caller on Tuesday.
"Well AJ did a great job for us," Saban said prior to a Crimson Caravan stop in Montgomery. "I think that sometimes people don't evaluate things like I would evaluate things. I think AJ was probably the third or fourth best quarterback in this draft. I don't study them all, but he did a fantastic job for us. And I certainly think he's going to be a great pro player and have a very good career."
McCarron was the ninth quarterback selected in the draft when the Cincinnati Bengals took him in the fifth round, No. 164 overall.
If the fall of a decorated college quarterback into the later rounds wasn't enough, McCarron's plummet was gained more national attention in light of his own comments. During a pre-draft interview with ESPN, McCarron said that among NFL teams, "pretty much everybody" told him he had a first-round grade. He went on to say he expected to go anywhere between No. 16 and No. 35 overall.
As McCarron fell in the draft, ESPN's Adam Schefter and others reported that McCarron "rubbed some teams the wrong way" during pre-draft interviews.
Saban said he saw no issues with McCarron's attitude during his time at Alabama. McCarron went 36-4 and led Alabama to two national championships as a starting quarterback.
"It does surprise me. He was never that way to me," Saban said. "And I think if you ask a lot of teammates they would probably say the same. I think AJ is a very good person. And regardless of what he said to you and whatever way he sort of left you with an impression, if he could do something to help you, he would be the first one there to do it.
"He is a good person and I think in the long run, he will have a chance, and an opportunity to prove he can be a good leader and a good quarterback in the National Football League."
Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson also responded to the reports of McCarron's demeanor after the Bengals selected him on Saturday.
"A lot of people call me cocky," Jackson told reporters. "I have a lot of confidence, too. I kind of like that in a guy. I kind of like that in a quarterback. I think you have to raise above sometimes some tough times."
McCarron said he played through injuries and "sacrificed" to play Alabama during a radio interview following the draft.
"A lot of people don't realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama. I sacrificed a lot to play for coach (Nick) Saban and that university," McCarron told Senior Bowl President Phil Savage during a post-draft interview on Sirius/XM Radio. "I played through a lot of injuries, and we never leaked it because that's just the way it is."
McCarron later clarified his remarks on Twitter.
"People need to understand I wasn't bashing anybody at all or coach. He's like a dad to me all I was saying was us as players give a lot so ... To hear people make up rumors ab you that aren't true. That's what sucks when you sacrificed so much for your team & university while there!," he tweeted.
"Well, he never said any of those things to me," Saban said of McCarron's comments about his time at Alabama. "All I know is he did a great job for us and he was a good leader on our team and a good person. I think sometimes people get characterized in the wrong way. I certainly think this was the case in some ways here. But we all have to be responsible for our own self-determination too. And evaluate what we did that might have created that. We just want to support AJ and his family in every way that we can. Wish him the very best in the career opportunity that he has."