The San Francisco 49ers' running back was the first player to appear on the cover. He proceeded to break his ankle in the playoffs, and broke it so bad he wouldn't play again until the 2001 season.
Madden 2012: Peyton Hillis — CURSED
Hillis plowed through competition in 2010 and became EA Sports’ most recent cover boy, but it hasn’t all been glitz and glamour. Since his breakout season in 2010, Hillis hasn’t been a consistent force on the ground and has been plagued by a hamstring injury.
Madden 2011: Drew Brees — CURSED?
Brees threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2010. New Orleans was given an early ticket home after losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card game. But Brees wasn’t completely cursed as he eclipsed the 4,500 passing yards mark.
Madden 2010: Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald — CURSED AND NOT CURSED?
Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety, injured a knee in the season opener and missed the next four games. He reinjured himself soon after his return, and the defending Super Bowl champs missed the playoffs. Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals receiver, managed to avoid injury, have another All-Pro season and help the Cards win 10 games for the first time since 1976. Curse-buster? We’ll see.
Madden 2009: Brett Favre — CURSED
The future Hall of Fame QB made the cover despite retiring from the Green Bay Packers, promptly un-retired and joined the New York Jets, and seemed poised to end the jinx — until it all blew up. The Jets went 1-4 down the stretch and missed the playoffs as an ailing Favre threw seven picks, finishing with a league-high 22. Double curse: The Pack went 6-10.
Madden 2008: Vince Young — CURSED
The Tennessee Titans’ rookie QB, coming off a national championship with Texas, missed a game for the first time in his career (including middle school, high school and college) after suffering a quadriceps injury. He helped the Titans reach the playoffs, but failed to lead them to a touchdown in their opening-round loss.
Madden 2007: Shaun Alexander — CURSED
The Seattle Seahawks running back broke his left foot three games into the season and missed six games as Seattle took a step back after reaching the Super Bowl for the first time the previous season.
Madden 2006: Donovan McNabb — CURSED
The Philadelphia Eagles QB flouted the curse — and promptly injured himself in the season opener. He missed the final seven games as Philly finished last after making the playoffs five straight times, including a Super Bowl appearance the previous year.
Madden 2005: Ray Lewis — CURSED
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker failed to make a single interception, sat out the final game with an injury, and the Ravens just missed the playoffs. The next year he tore a hamstring and missed the second half as the season as Baltimore blew up.
Madden 2004: Michael Vick — CURSED
The Atlanta Falcons’ up-and-coming QB fractured his leg a day after the game came out and played in only five games as the Falcons tanked. And his worst days were yet to come.
Madden 2003: Marshall Faulk — CURSED
Plagued by injuries, the St. Louis Rams running back failed to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in five seasons, and the Rams failed to make the playoffs after two Super Bowl appearances in three years.
Madden 2002: Daunte Culpepper — CURSED
The Minnesota Vikings’ emerging star QB took a step backward, suffering a knee injury and missing the last five games of a disappointing year.
Madden 2001: Eddie George — CURSED
The Tennessee Titans running back enjoyed his best season statistically, but he dropped the ball in the playoffs and saw his rushing average sink to a career low while battling injuries the following season.
Madden 2000: Barry Sanders and Dorsey Levens — CURSED
Sanders, the future Hall of Fame running back, shocked the Detroit Lions and the rest of the world by retiring at age 31. EA Sports subbed him out for Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens, who had a good season, but the Pack missed the playoffs and Levens was used only in a reserve role after that, and was released at the end of the 2001 season.