BEIJING Highly-paid rookie quarterbacks are under increasing pressure to make an instant impact in the NFL, former San Francisco 49ers great Joe Montana said on Monday.
"There's more pressure because they're making a lot more money. When you get paid all that money they want you to start right away," he told Reuters during a promotional event for NFL China in Beijing.
"Just to stay and make it through the year, it's pretty good. If you can do that and hang on to your job for that long as a rookie, then you're doing a pretty good job."
Huge hopes have been pinned on the crop of new recruits over recent seasons, with the spotlight on the likes of Heisman trophy-winning college quarterbacks Sam Bradford of the St Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III at the Washington Redskins.
Griffin set the NFL alight last year during a spectacular rookie season but following injury has struggled in this campaign, while 2013 rookies like Geno Smith of the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills' EJ Manuel, chosen in the first round of this year's draft, are still finding their feet.
Montana downplayed what fans should expect from new players.
"It's a tough go, no matter what, for that first year," Montana said.
"There's a lot of things that are so much different, so much more complicated than it appears on television, than it might be."
He said it was too early to count out players like Smith, who put up impressive numbers in college at West Virginia but has been inconsistent in his debut NFL season.
"Unfortunately you've got to wait it out sometimes for a few years. Some guys take a little longer," he remarked.
Montana was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1979 but only became the starting quarterback midway through the 1980 season and went on to win four Super Bowls and three MVP awards.
Montana also weighed in on the recent locker-room bullying controversy involving Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin and team mate Richie Incognito.
"The locker room's just a funny place," Montana said.
"I don't like to even talk about those because I don't know all the details. In most cases, nobody does, other than those guys, or the guys in the locker room, but you can't go in the locker room without being made fun of."
(Reporting by Adam Rose, editing by Justin Palmer)