Home Editor's Picks Opinion: A.J. McCarron’s Return To Battlehawks Is Welcomed Relief

Opinion: A.J. McCarron’s Return To Battlehawks Is Welcomed Relief

Signing Of 2023 Starting Quarterback Stabilizes Team Prior To UFL Season

by Brian Ledford

(Editor’s Note: The following opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect those at Arch City Media…although safe money says that they probably do!)

Friday’s official announcement by the St. Louis Battlehawks promoting the return of 2023 starting quarterback A.J. McCarron resulted in plenty of positive vibes from their loyal fanbase.

Alongside plenty of “hoorays and huzzahs,” the most-accurate reaction from the locals was “Whew!”

The Battlehawks’ reveal certainly quelled a lot of recent sweating that had been building prior to team’s March 31 season opener at Michigan for their inaugural United Football League (UFL) campaign.

After January’s UFL dispersal drafts and the league’s recent free-agent signing period, St. Louis on Monday only had two quarterbacks on their initial pre-camp roster: Nick Tiano, the 2023 Battlehawks’ back-up, and Manny Wilkens, a team returnee who was listed as inactive last season due to roster restrictions.

The murkiness made some fans wonder if the 33-year-old McCarron, who was promoted to the primary squad of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals last season following starting quarterback Joe Borrows’ mid-November injury, but then ultimately reduced to minimal reps, could be a potential snare prior to the team’s February 23 training camp in Texas.

Photo Credit: St. Louis Battlehawks

It wasn’t a lock earlier this week, but then situations unfurled in a most-optimistic way as the days progressed.

On Tuesday, the Battlehawks waived Tiano, who won his lone start with the team last season, which left the team to solely Wilkens, who has yet to officially record an on-field snap with the franchise.

Adding speculation Wednesday morning, Cincinnati released McCarron, who saw minimal action for the Bengals in two games last season as the team jettisoned Jake Browning to the Bengals’ starting role.

As the day progressed, a tweet from long-time local football scribe Howard Balzer stated that McCarron requested his release from the Bengals in order to return to the Battlehawks.

The sun, the moon and the stars really ramped up on Thursday. Could a reunion between the quarterback and the St. Louis UFL franchise be in order?

Perhaps McCarron, the Battlehawks and the Bengals rightly knew that this would be the projected outcome, considering the right-handed gunslinger’s 2023 XFL numbers was what netted him MVP status within and looks from the NFL afterwards.

In nine Battlehawks’ starts last season, McCarron collected six of the team’s seven wins while posting 203 completions for 2,150 yards and 23 touchdowns, which resulted in a resume that topped the league’s multiple charts within that position.

Although finishing 7-3, St. Louis failed to make the 2023 XFL post-season, but McCarron’s finale last April logged his most-impressive ledger: 420 yards completed with six touchdowns in a 53-28 victory over Orlando.

Pushing math aside, what made McCarron so popular for Battlehawks’ faithful last year was his humble approach to why he wanted to play in the XFL, despite so many prior setbacks during his seven-year NFL career that spanned five different franchises.

It wasn’t about the paycheck. He simply wanted to play in front of his kids for one last time.

It’s a narrative that those of us parents, no matter what our athletic or non-athletic specialty is, can immediately relate to. It’s all about pride, no matter one’s personal size of the fish or the pond that one wades through. Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gave him props via social media due to the personal storyline and journey.

When McCarron left the Battlehawks last September due to the temptation of resuming his NFL career, we were collectively saddened, but understanding.

But fast-forward. With the ongoing hubbub this week, and hearing about his ongoing desire to return to the Battlehawks in order to pick up where he left off, it makes us immediately welcome McCarron back and root for him once again.

The Battlehawks’ re-acquisition comes at a time when the team is currently solidified with a plethora of wide receivers that McCarron can immediately capitalize with and raise his future cache.

Not only does St. Louis sport returnees Hakeem Butler (51 catches, 599 yards, team-leading eight TDs), Steven Mitchell (four TDs) and Jake Sutherland (two TDs), but they also added former XFL Seattle standouts Jahcour Pearson (four TDs) and Blake Jackson (two TDs).

McCarron is also wise to the offensive schema that made the Battlehawks the second-highest scoring team in the XFL last season (24.9 PPG).

Also for St. Louis, having a veteran player, who was a figurehead in leadership for the team last season, maintaining that position is imperative as the team competes in a hybrid football league.

But at the forefront, McCarron WANTS to play for the Battlehawks. That’s most-welcoming.

Even with St. Louis’ main cog returning, we fans do have to “count our chickenhawks before they hatch” before assuming that the faction will play in the UFL Championship game in mid-June, no matter where it takes place.

Much like the Battlehawks, the three surviving XFL squads that tangle within the UFL’s XFL Conference this season (Arlington Renegades, D.C. Defenders, and San Antonio Brahmas) also plucked solid players from the four dissolved 2023 XFL franchises. On-paper, initial rosters for the quartet are more comparable.

Also, one must realistically keep in mind that an injury at a primary position could stifle a team as it competes throughout the regular season. This certainly applies to the role of quarterback, who primarily is the face of a franchise and an architect of an offense. Fingers crossed that that doesn’t apply here, whether during camp or early-season.

But positively the end, having McCarron back under center is a welcomed relief for those that have already purchased season ticket packages and those that will visit per game in the future.

Having A.J. back in the fold is A-OK in my book, and I think we all feel the same.

The Battlehawks’ five-game home season ticket package is available at this LINK.








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By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.

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