SAD NEWS: St. Louis Battlehawks QB sustain a career-ending injury

UFL season comes to an emotional END for Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron

Quarterback AJ McCarron returned to football in the XFL last season so his sons could see him play. He kept playing the past two weeks on an injured ankle so they could learn a lesson from their dad, too.

McCarron’s season came to an end on Sunday night when the St. Louis Battlehawks lost to the San Antonio Brahmas 25-15 in the semifinals of the United Football League playoffs.

During the postgame press conference, the former Alabama All-American’s voice cracked and wavered at times, particularly when referencing his two sons who attended the game.

McCarron sustained an ankle injury on May 11 against the Birmingham Stallions. He missed the next two games but returned for the regular-season finale on June 1, when the Battlehawks beat the Brahmas 13-12 to bring the XFL Conference Championship Game to St. Louis.

On the final play of the first half on Sunday night, McCarron had a defender fall on his injured ankle after he’d thrown a pass. The quarterback stayed on the turf at the Dome at America’s Center until most of the rest of the players were already in the locker rooms.

McCarron walked off the field late for the first half, and he walked onto the field late for the second half, although he didn’t miss any offensive snaps for St. Louis.

McCarron said there were two reasons he kept playing with the injury.

“Having my boys in here, one about them,” McCarron said, “trying to show them you got to be able to push through (expletive), especially at a young age. As a kid, they slide into second, skin their knee up, the first thing they want to do is, ‘Oh, my knee.’ I know, especially my oldest right here, he likes to exaggerate a lot of injuries, so trying to show him: Hey, you got to push through it.”

McCarron said he also kept playing for the league and its players.

“Listen, I care, even when it was the XFL, I care a lot about this league,” McCarron said. “A lot about why I came back, like I don’t need the money, but I think being able to show the guys how to do it right, how to be a pro. Like I’ve said many a times – it’s no secret – I want to be a part of this league. I think I can still play at a high level. I think I’ve shown that this year. But whether it’s being a coach in this league, I think this league has a great opportunity to grow and really showcase a lot of guys and help guys achieve their goal. I played nine years in the (NFL), and my goal always was to play 10.

“But I think me being out there, one, for my boys so they have the experience of watching me play, and then, two, helping this league grow, I think I can do that, whether that’s playing, whether that’s coaching, however, the top officials of this league see fit. But I love being a part of this league. I love helping this league grow. I think it has a great opportunity because every professional sport has some sort of minor league except the NFL. … There’s so many ways this league can grow, and it has a great opportunity, so I love being a part of it. I love helping the people push this league. I try to do everything I can to bring good light to this league.

“But for now I’m going to figure out this ankle situation and get to go watch these two play all-stars in baseball and have some fun with them.”

McCarron had been off the field since Aug. 21, 2021, when he returned with the Battlehawks in the revived XFL in 2023. McCarron had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a preseason game with the Atlanta Falcons and spent the 2021 NFL season on injured reserve.

McCarron’s performance for St. Louis last year helped him return to the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals for the 2023 season. But he still came back to the Battlehawks for a second campaign, this time in the United Football League after the XFL and USFL merged.

McCarron’s insistence on playing with an injured left ankle in the UFL might have jeopardized his opportunity to return to the NFL this season.

“It was the same, exact situation from Birmingham,” McCarron said. “I haven’t seen the TV clip, but I could feel it as soon as he fell on it. It was the exact, same way. It just sucked. Tried to get through it. I told (St. Louis coach Anthony Becht) I’d go see the doctors and then let him know if I could go.”

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