Memories of a preseason debut 17 years ago for Josh McCown


The Arizona Cardinals traveled to San Diego in August of 2002 for their preseason opener at Qualcomm Stadium.

Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson was in that game. Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie was in that game. Current Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle was in that game.

And Josh McCown was in that game.

That was McCown’s first career preseason game, and he remembers it like it was yesterday.

I remember, shoot, Jake Plummer hit David Boston on a dig pump for like a 60-yard touchdown, and I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Man, this game is easy, you know? This is what we’re going to do,’” McCown said. “Then the third quarter rolls around and I get in the game and I just remember running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find the open guy and get some completions and finally settling in. But it’s a fun day. When you put that uniform on for the first time and you walk out there it’s special, and they turn the lights on and you take the field, it’s a special feeling. I’ll never forget that.

McCown’s memory is pretty darn good.

The TD from Plummer to Boston was actually 64 yards. That’s 17 years ago.

And when McCown entered the game he started out 0-for-5 with a sack before warming up and hitting six of his last seven passes. 

That was his first career preseason game, and the one against the Ravens last Thursday might wind up being his last. He probably won’t play against the Jets Thursday night in the preseason finale at MetLife Stadium, and at 40 years old and in his 18th pro season this could well wind up being his final NFL season.

McCown has played in 50 career preseason games, completing 310 of 517 passes for 3,088 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

That’s like a full meaningless NFL season.

McCown, who missed virtually all of this year's training camp, has been around so long he’s a throwback to the old NFL two-a-day practices that have long since been outlawed.

The guys were asking (about two-a-days), what it was like,” McCown said. ‘Hey, practice twice a day, just like it sounds. I think obviously the rule changes for player safety are important, but there was a level of grind and toughness that came out of those days, so when you’re in the middle of that, you weren’t thinking about playing for 17 years, I promise you that. You were hoping to last the next 17 minutes. … I was just trying to make it through camp at that point. Back when camp was really camp. So to be here is a tremendous blessing, I’m very thankful.

The fourth preseason game is always the worst of the bunch. And they’re all pretty bad. 

McCown recalled the final preseason weekend of 2012 with the Bears, when they faced the Browns in Cleveland. 

With Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell not playing and Matt Blanchard just released, McCown had to play the entire game, throwing 29 passes. 

I had been in the league 10-plus years, I’m playing every snap of the fourth preseason game,” he said. “But there were guys trying to make the roster, so I was trying to give everybody their best chance. I got cut the next day.

Then there was last summer, when ironically he was with the Jets finishing the preseason against the Eagles at the Linc. 

He wasn’t scheduled to play, but …

We traded Teddy Bridgewater on the way to the game and I had to find some (cleats) and get myself ready to go,” he said. “But it’s an important night, and you understand that as a young player and going through the league because it’s a night of opportunity and you want to help those guys out.

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