For the first time in what feels like forever, AJ McCarron wasn’t the leader of a football team in 2014. A three-time national champion at Alabama, McCarron didn’t see the field in a single game in his rookie year with the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s done nothing to lower head coach Marvin Lewis’ belief in the former Crimson Tide quarterback.

“I will tell you that we’re excited about him for the future,” Lewis said of McCarron at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis over the weekend.

A fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, McCarron missed the entire year following surgery to correct a shoulder problem that stemmed back to his days at Alabama.

“AJ was on basically the PUP [physically unable to perform] list until about Week 13 this season. He didn’t get to practice until the last six weeks, including the playoff week, so I tried to do things in practice during the week to give AJ opportunity to do real football so he wasn’t just working against our defense. I wanted him to have an opportunity to work within the game plan,” Lewis said at the combine.

McCarron could be several years away from seeing the field in Cincinnati, despite how much Lewis appreciates his talent. Before last season, the Bengals gave starter Andy Dalton a six-year extension worth up to $115 million.

“He’s one of our reserve quarterbacks, so hopefully the opportunity gets a little limited right now,” Lewis said.

Despite having slim chances to see the field without injuries ahead of him, McCarron appears to have a bright future in the NFL.

“I think he has a great mind for football. We think he’s got the ability to be a good NFL quarterback, a good passer, and obviously he’s got the competitive nature, the make-up of guys that have been very productive in the NFL,” Lewis said to media at the combine. “So I’m excited about A.J. and his future.”