LaDainian Tomlinson Once Turned Down the Madden Cover but Not Because of the Curse

All eyes were on San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson when he shredded defenses and won the NFL MVP Award in 2006.

The shifty superstar could juke and stiff-arm with the best of them, and those skills allowed him to total a staggering 33 all-purpose touchdowns that season. Then, it made sense that EA Sports called and wanted to place Tomlinson on the cover of Madden NFL 08. So why did the Chargers star say thanks, but no thanks?

LaDainian Tomlinson turned down the Madden cover in 2007

San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson runs against the Oakland Raiders in 2007.
LaDainian Tomlinson turned down the Madden cover in 2007 | Mike Lucia/Oakland Tribune/Digital First Media Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

EA Sports chose Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, as the cover athlete for 2007’s Madden NFL 08.

The company originally had a much bigger name in mind than Young, however. According to CNBC, EA initially offered LaDainian Tomlinson the cover spot. The star running back turned the company down, but not because of the dreaded Madden Curse. 

Instead, Tomlinson explained he wasn’t interested because of money. At the time, cover athletes usually received anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 between appearing on the cover, promotional appearances, commercials, and so forth.

According to Spotrac, Tomlinson earned $4.25 million during the 2006 season, and that number jumped to $5 million in 2007. He knew his value, and he understood he was worth more than Electronic Arts would have paid.

Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are the ‘Madden NFL 22’ cover athletes

Much like Tomlinson, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady aren’t afraid of any curse.

The two star quarterbacks will officially appear on the Madden NFL 22 cover for the second time. Brady earned that honor on 2017’s Madden NFL 18, and Mahomes did the same two years later.

Madden has not had two players on the same cover since 2009 when Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu shared the honor. Although EA Sports has done alternative covers in the past, only one player has traditionally appeared on the standard version’s box art.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson appeared on the cover last year. As of June 2021, nearly 5,700 users on Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version of Madden 21 had a 0.2 user score. Over 1,000 users gave the Xbox One version had a 0.5 user score. Both editions received “mixed or average” critic reviews.

Don’t dismiss the ‘Madden curse’ and its effects

Perhaps by virtue of not appearing on the Madden cover, Tomlinson rushed for an NFL-high 1,474 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2007. He also hauled in 60 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-Pro honors. Tomlinson even threw a 17-yard touchdown pass.

One has to wonder what his numbers would have looked like if he accepted EA’s offer. The Madden cover appeared unstoppable for many years and sent some of the sport’s best players to the bench with injuries, poor performances, or a combination of the two.

Michael Vick, the Madden 04 cover athlete, missed the first 11 games of the 2003 season with a broken leg. Two years later, Donovan McNabb missed time with a sports hernia. Troy Polamalu, a co-cover athlete on Madden NFL 10, sat out 11 games that year with a knee injury.

With that said, the Madden Curse may have officially ended when Mahomes appeared on the Madden 20 cover and won the Super Bowl several months later. But just to be safe, Mahomes and Brady should knock on wood starting…now. 

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