The Madden cover athlete, a blessing… and a curse

By Dylan Botelho, Staff Writer

Curses in sports are nothing new. With the high-intensity and chance of injury in football, “curses” seem to take hold of one or a few players almost every year. While some sports curses date all the way back to the 1920’s like the little-known Arizona Cardinals Pottsville Maroons curse, the NFL’s most well-known curse only began in the late ‘90s with the EA Sports Madden cover curse.

Ever since players have been appearing on the cover of the widely popular football video-game, strange injuries, decline in performance, or other loss of playing time has occurred. John Madden, who is the games namesake, originally appeared on the games covers.

That changed for Madden 99, when EA Sports started to feature athletes. Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers was the first ever athlete to grace the cover of any Madden game. In the year prior, Hearst put up career numbers, rushing for 1,570 yards and 9 touchdowns. In his first carry of the divisional playoff game that season though, Hearst broke his ankle and would miss the two consecutive seasons. There, the curse was born.

A string of injuries would ensue for the next 17 years, with players either missing a few games or even a season. Some players couldn’t ever bounce back from injuries, like Eddie George who was on the Madden 2001 cover. After breaking his toe the next season after the game was released, he would only go on to play four more seasons. George dominated the year before his injury, putting up 1,509 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2000. Marshall Faulk had the same troubles two years later. After four straight seasons of at least 2,000 total yards, Faulk was limited after an injury the same year he was on the cover, finishing with only 953 yards and played only three more seasons.

In 2004, the curse brought its most devastating injury. Michael Vick, who was unstoppable both on the NFL field and in the Madden games, was chosen as the cover. Vick didn’t even get to play a regular season snap after fracturing his fibula in the preseason. Vick missed the first 11 games of the season and returned in Week 13 with less than stellar play. He finished the season with only 585 passing yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. Then we all know what happened to Vick after then with this dog-fighting scandal.

One of the league’s most dynamic players have has never been the same since being on the cover. If you didn’t believe in the Madden curse by 2004…you did now.

Nobody may have had a worse effect on his entire career though, than Vince Young. Young was only in the second year of his career and looked like the quarterback of the future for the Tennessee Titans.

Young didn’t have a very serious injury, but his attitude had completed shifted thanks to it. He only missed one game with a strained quadriceps but would only start 22 more games in his entire career after losing focus, and was out of the NFL only five seasons later.

Patriots fans very well should be holding their breath this season as legendary quarterback Tom Brady has dawned the cover of this year’s Madden 18. Patriots tight-end Rob Gronkowski was on the cover last season and played in only eight games, missing the final five games of the season and the entirety of the playoffs with a reoccurring back injury that still has affected him this season.

Brady may have avoided his curse this season, but it wasn’t without a sacrifice. As ridiculous as it may sound, many believe that Patriots number one wide-receiver, Julian Edelman bit the bullet for Brady when he tore his ACL in the preseason. If there’s anyone who can break an almost two-decade long curse though, it’s the G.O.A.T.

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