The Curse: Why NFL Stars Should Steer Clear of the Madden NFL Cover
Obviously John Madden believed in the Madden curse. That would be the only reason he would accept being replaced as the cover boy on his NFL video game in 1999.
His commentary at NFL games became so annoying that even EA decided to remove his stupid sayings from the game once he retired.
So after gracing the cover through the 80's and 90's, John Madden decided to pass on the curse to current players in the NFL, so now his only mark on the game is his name.
The unfortunate souls that thought they were bigger than the curse, quickly found out they weren't. In the season following their appearances on the cover, the players suffered through injuries, poor play, and undesirable circumstances.
Here is a look at what the curse has done and why future Madden men should think twice about having their image on the front of the best-selling game.
1999: Garrison Hearst, HB
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In 1998, Hearst had a breakout season with the 49ers, rushing for over 1,500 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
But then the curse hit, at the worst possible time. On Hearst's first carry in the Divisional Playoffs, he broke his ankle, and doctors said it may have been the last play of his career.
Hearst made it back on the field after two years of rehab, but he only had one more season in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards.
The curse had claimed its first victim.
2000: Barry Sanders, HB
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Barry Sanders unexpectedly retired in 1999 as the third all-time leading rusher in NFL history.
Sanders left the league healthy, and escaped the curse.
He claimed that his competitiveness wouldn't allow him to play another season for the lowly Lions, but was it the fear of the curse that led to his early retirement?
The Madden curse hadn't really established itself yet, with only one victim. Barry Sanders probably didn't even know there was a curse.
But if any of you NFL players decide to accept the invitation to be on the cover, make like Barry and call it quits right away.
2001: Eddie George, HB
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The curse struck Eddie George with a case of fumblitis.
In the 2001 playoffs, George cost the Titans a victory in the Divisional Round with a crucial fumble. He also had fumbled seven times in the regular season.
A toe injury bothered him the following year and he had career lows in production.
2002: Daunte Culpepper, QB
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In the 2001 season Culpepper threw thirteen interceptions and fumbled nine times. Those stats may seem mild, but he only played in eleven games due to a back injury.
The next year Culpepper broke the record for most fumbles in a season, with fourteen, and threw 23 picks. In 2005, he injured three of the ligaments in his knee and was also involved in the Vikings boat cruise scandal.
His career with the Vikings, and as a whole, was pretty much over. Culpepper never played a full season again as he made short appearances on the Dolphins, Raiders, and Lions.
However, the curse allowed him a final shot in the UFL.
2003: Marshall Faulk, HB
Faulk never rushed for over 1,000 yards again after appearing on Madden, and his career went down the tubes because of injuries. He missed five games in 2003, thanks to a bum ankle, and eventually lost playing time to rookie Steven Jackson in 2004.
Faulk sat out the entire 2006 season due to knee surgery, and later decided to retire.
2004: Michael Vick, QB
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Would Vick have been caught for dog fighting if he'd declined the 2004 cover honor? Probably.
But, even so, only five days after the release of the game he suffered a fractured fibula, in the preseason none the less, that would keep him off the field until Week 12.
In 2007, his dog fighting ring was busted, leading to prison time, suspension in the league, and public disdain.
2005: Ray Lewis, LB
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Ray Lewis may have been the least cursed compared to the previous victims. He wasn't injured until Week 15 of the 2004 season, and the Ravens failed to make the playoffs anyway.
It was his first season without an interception, but that was the best the curse could do the twelve time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl MVP.
2006: Donovan McNabb, QB
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In 2005, along with arguments with Terrell Owens, McNabb suffered through a sports hernia and a sore thumb until a groin injury landed him on the IR.
In 2006, a torn ACL knocked him out for the year. In his remaining years as an Eagle, he became hated by the fans for not leading them to a Super Bowl victory, and found himself traded to the Redskins in 2010.
2007: Shaun Alexander, HB
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Alexander fractured his foot in 2007 and missed six starts. The next year he fractured his wrist, sprained his knee, and sprained his ankle.
Just two years after being the league's MVP, he was cut by the Seahawks. In 2008, he carried the ball a mere eleven times for the Redskins and was released in November.
Alexander attempted to make a comeback, but couldn't find a team that wanted him. Sadly, he would never return to the league.
2008: Vince Young, QB
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Young missed one game in the 2007, but the curse caught him in 2008. He injured his knee in the first game, and lost the starting job to Kerry Collins for the rest of the season.
After regaining his job in 2009, he lost it again in 2010. His demotion was a direct result of throwing his shoulder pads into the crowd and getting into it with Titans coach Jeff Fisher after a loss, in which he was held out because of injuring his thumb.
It'll be interesting if what team he'll be on next year, and if the curse will follow him.
2009: Brett Favre, QB
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People thought that if anyone could defeat the curse, it would be Brett Favre. It appeared he was the man for the job, after leading the Jets to an 8-3 record, but in the final five games of the year he threw eight interceptions.
The Jets missed the playoffs and Favre blamed it on a shoulder injury, which needed surgery to heal. The curse followed him to Minnesota where he threw a crucial INT in the 2009 NFC Championship, and he unwisely decided to come back for more in 2010.
The curse destroyed the old man in his second season as a Viking. He suffered injury after injury, as he threw picks left and right. The Vikings were a disgrace and fell to his old team, the Packers, twice.
Favre's consecutive starts streak ended in the second week of December due to a strained shoulder, and a week later, a concussion finally put him out of his misery, sidelining the legend for the remainder of the season.
The only hope for Favre is that the curse won't follow him into retirement.
2010: Troy Polamalu, S + Larry Fitzgerald, WR
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Surely if there were two players on the cover, they wouldn't both be cursed right?
Polamalu took the brunt of the curse, missing most of the 2009 season with a MCL sprain. Fitzgerald only missed the Pro Bowl due to a rib injury.
Larry claimed to believe in the curse, so maybe that's what spared him.
2011: Drew Brees, QB
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Fresh off leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory and winning the MVP, Drew Brees was honored with the cover of Madden NFL 2011.
He had another Pro Bowl year and started in every single game. The Saints made it in the postseason and found themselves matched up with the NFC West winning, 7-9 Seahawks.
It looked like the path to the Divisional Round would be a cakewalk. The Saints strolled into Qwest Field as enormous favorites, and limped out as the team that lost to the "worst team in playoff history".
The curse took the Super Bowl champions and turned them into the laughing-stock of the NFL.
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Can the curse ever be broken? Will 2012 be the year?
If not, what poor soul will be tough enough to face the curse and claim the cover of Madden NFL 2012?
The world will watch and pray that the curse will grant mercy on the next superstar to be honored on the game's cover.
To all NFL players, beware the power of the curse and don't understimate it. It is a career-ender, skill-diminisher, and a season-destroyer.