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AJ McCarron says he's playing vs. Bucs "no matter what"

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AJ McCarron will likely be the Bengals' backup QB when the 2015 NFL season begins.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The long-awaited debut of Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron will likely come next week against the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.

McCarron, now in his second year as a Cincinnati Bengal, appeared on Beyond the Stripes Tuesday night, where he talked about the injury he suffered last week, which caused him to miss the team's preseason opener vs. the Giants. It was a "freak accident" McCarron said, but it isn't something that will hold him out come Monday when the Bengals play the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.

"I'll be ready to go no matter what," McCarron said. "I'm not sitting out another game. I wanted to play last week. It was the doctors, Mr. (Mike) Brown, coach (Marvin) Lewis, they're the ones that advised me not to. I really didn't have a say-so when it came to them."

After being a fifth-round pick out of Alabama in the 2014 NFL Draft, McCarron spent his entire rookie season either rehabbing his injured throwing arm, or working behind Andy Dalton to help him prepare for each week's opponent. This was a different world for McCarron, who came to the Bengals after leading the Crimson Tide to back-to-back BCS Championships from 2011-12 and another 11-win season in 2013.

Though McCarron hated not helping on the field, he made sure to find ways to help the Bengals off of it.

"It was tough coming to work every day just knowing that I wasn't really contributing to the team," McCarron said. "I mean I was there and trying to get healthy and doing everything the team was asking, but I think that's the biggest reason why I took up breaking down film for (quarterback) Andy (Dalton) and (quarterbacks coach Ken) Zamp(ese) and all the coaches, trying to help in every way possible."

Now, McCarron is poised to be the Bengals' No. 2 backup behind Dalton for the 2015 season. That is, as long as he can impress in the remaining preseason games and hold off veteran QB Josh Johnson, who McCarron has outperformed to this point in practice. But, practice and games are two different things.

Johnson has years of experience in the NFL as a backup and starter and McCarron has never played a live snap in the NFL other than a team scrimmage two weeks ago. He's about as raw as raw gets for an NFL QB. That said, McCarron was a star in OTAs and has performed well enough in camp that he was listed as the No. 2 QB on the initial depth chart.

We're still about three weeks away from the final cutdown when the 53-man roster is set. McCarron isn't in danger of losing his spot on the team, but come early September, we'll know if he is the backup or not. If Johnson and Keith Wenning are cut, that leaves only McCarron to play QB for the Bengals if Dalton goes down.

That's why Monday's game against the Bucs is the biggest game of McCarron's NFL life, even though it's only the first.