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Tom Brady on the cover of "Madden NFL 18."
EA Sports
In May it was announced that Tom Brady would be on the cover of EA Sports' "Madden NFL 18," the latest version of the popular video-game franchise.

Much like the popular Sports Illustrated-cover curse, the Madden video game has its own eyebrow-raising history: the "Madden Curse."

Ever since athletes began appearing on the cover of Madden in the late '90s, they seem to almost immediately lose significant amounts of playing time because of injuries, run-ins with the law, or other reasons.

Below we document the long history of the "Madden Curse," with some help from and

Early years of the Madden video-game franchise

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In the early years of the Madden franchise, players occasionally appeared on the cover with John Madden, typically in the background. However, more often, Madden appeared on the cover by himself.

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EA Sports tried something new for Madden 99 (released in 1998). While John Madden appeared on covers in North America, Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers appeared on the cover of the PAL version released in other parts of the world. In 1998, Hearst had his best season as a pro, rushing for 1,570 yards. However, on his first carry of the divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, he severely broke his ankle and he would miss the next two seasons. This is considered the beginning of the curse.

Madden 2000 — Barry Sanders

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Barry Sanders is not always considered part of the curse, but we include him here for you to decide. Shortly after it was announced that he would be on the cover (behind John Madden in the background), he announced he was retiring from the NFL and would never play again.

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Eddie George is another one that is debated. George had career highs of 1,509 yards and 16 touchdowns during the 2000 season when the game was released. However, he severely injured his toe the following year and only played four more seasons.

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Culpepper stormed onto the scene the year before with an NFL-best 33 touchdown passes. But in 2001 (the year the game was released), Culpepper injured his knee and missed the final five games of the season.

Source: ESPN

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Faulk was coming off four straight seasons of at least 1,300 yards rushing and at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage. During the 2002 season, Faulk missed two games with an injury and was limited in several others. He finished with 953 yards rushing and played just three more seasons.

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Vick missed the first 11 games of the 2003 season with a broken leg he suffered on a scramble during a preseason game. The Falcons went 5-11 and missed the playoffs.

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After the Philadelphia Eagles went to the Super Bowl the season before, McNabb suffered a sports hernia during the 2005 season. He tried to play through it, but eventually needed surgery and missed the final six weeks. The Eagles went 6-10.

Source: ESPN

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In the season prior to being on the cover, Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns. However, in the 2006 season, Alexander broke a bone in his foot and missed six games. He rushed for just 896 yards and would only play two more seasons.

Source: Washington Post

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Madden 08 — Vince Young

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Zone High Brown top Hub Trainers Dark black white In the second season of what was a promising start to his career, Young strained his quadriceps and missed one game. He would only start 22 more games in his career and was out of the NFL five seasons later.


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Favre had announced his retirement following the 2007 season. However he changed his mind. The Packers had already committed to Aaron Rodgers, so Favre was traded to the New York Jets. He didn't miss any time, but he did have to play for the Jets and the Packers would win another Super Bowl two years later.


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After helping the Steelers win the Super Bowl in 2008, Polamalu missed 11 games because of an injured knee ligament. The Steelers missed the playoffs.


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Drew Brees did not miss a game during the 2010 season. However, there were reports that he was hiding a broken bone in his leg. To add insult to injury (literally), the Saints would go on to lose to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, the first sub-.500 playoff team ever.

Hillis rushed for nearly 1,200 yards the year before appearing on the cover. He missed six games because of various injuries during the 2011 season and rushed for just 587 yards. He played just three more seasons and rushed for just 671 more yards in his career.

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Peterson played in just one game during the 2014 season after he was charged with abusing his son with tree branch. After playing opening weekend, Peterson was ruled ineligible and later suspended by the NFL for the rest of the season.

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Madden 17 — Rob Gronkowski

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With only the Super Bowl left in the 2018 season, it appears that Brady has avoided the curse — knock on wood — even at 40 years old. The Patriots even traded both of Brady's backups, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. So maybe the curse is just a bunch of coincidences in a violent sport.

As for Brady, he doesn't believe in curses.

"I'm not one to believe in curses," Brady said after the cover was announced. "So I'm ready to take the challenge head on like always."

Now check out how the GOAT lives his life off the field.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images for
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