By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is not afraid of curses.
He’s not afraid of traditional curses — like smashing mirrors or walking under ladders — and he’s not afraid of video game curses.
But should he be?
The Patriots’ quarterback, who will be on the cover of “Madden 18,” took to Facebook to tell the world that he simply does not believe in curses.
While curses may not actually exist in the human realm, the history of Madden cover athletes suffering injuries or declines is rather remarkable.
Here’s a brief look at some of the more prominent instances of “The Madden Curse” affecting cover athletes. (Note: The year attached to the game is the year after the season. That’s why Brady is on “Madden 18” for the 2017 season.)
1999: Garrison Hearst
The 49ers running back was the first player to be put on the cover of the video game. He suffered a broken ankle in the 1998 postseason.
Due to complications from surgery, Hearst would miss the entire 1999 and 2000 seasons.
2002: Daunte Culpepper
The Vikings quarterback was coming off an NFL-best 33 touchdowns in the 2000 season, but in 2001, he suffered a knee injury that cost him five games. He also went from a 33-to-16 TD-to-INT ratio in 2000 to a 14-to-13 mark in 2001.
2003: Marshall Faulk
The Rams running back was coming off five straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons, and four straight 1,300-plus-yard seasons. But in 2002, he missed five games due to an ankle injury, and he never again reached 1,000 yards. Granted, he was approaching 30 when he was on the cover.
2004: Michael Vick
Arguably the most electric player to ever enter the league, Vick rose to stardom in 2002 and appeared ready to take another step forward in 2003. But he suffered a broken leg in a preseason game, an injury which cost him 11 games during the regular season.
2005: Ray Lewis
The Hall of Fame-destined linebacker played in 15 of 16 games in 2004, but he did suffer a broken wrist. It was also the first season since his rookie year in which he did not record an interception.
The following year, he suffered a torn hamstring which forced him to miss 10 games.
2006: Donovan McNabb
The Eagles quarterback was coming off the best season of his career: 3,875 yards, 31 TDs, 8 INTs, and a Super Bowl appearance. But things went south quickly in 2005, as groin and thumb injuries limited him to just nine games. He and the Eagles went 6-10 following that Super Bowl appearance.
2007: Shaun Alexander
From 2000-2005, the running back missed zero games. In 2006, after appearing on the Madden cover and suffering a broken foot, he missed six games.
Coming off an MVP season in 2005, Alexander never again rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, and he was out of the league after 2008.
2008: Vince Young
Coming off a promising rookie season (which came after an exceptional Rose Bowl performance), Young flopped hard in 2007, throwing nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. After starting 28 games in 2006 and 2007, he’d start just 22 games in the remainder of his career.
2010: Troy Polamalu
In 2010, the Madden franchise opted to have two athletes on the cover: Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Polamalu suffered a knee injury which caused him to miss 11 games. Fitzgerald escaped unscathed.
2012: Peyton Hillis
The running back had very little business being on the cover, as he was awarded the honor based on a fan vote. After appearing on the cover, he posted a dreadful 3.6 yards per carry. He’d also miss six games due to a hamstring injury and strep throat.
2014: Adrian Peterson
The running back was coming off a preposterous 2,000-yard rushing season, so he was due to come down some. Still, his drop to 1,266 yards in 2013 was precipitous. He also suffered a foot injury which kept him off the field for two games.
2017: Rob Gronkowski
The behemoth tight end is often injured, so it wouldn’t be right to place all the game on a potentially make-believe curse. Still, Gronkowski suffered two serious injuries during the 2016 season. First, he suffered a lung/rib injury in Week 10 against the Seahawks, which kept him off the field for a game. But when he returned in Week 12, he didn’t last song, suffering a herniated disc which required season-ending surgery.
Gronkowski missed eight games in the regular season and then had to watch from the sideline as the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
So, there you have it, a rather comprehensive list of coincidental ailments and declines that lined up with appearances on the Madden cover. Of course, some players have bucked the trend. Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Richard Sherman were largely or entirely unaffected by the “curse.”
But with Brady, avoiding the “Madden curse” will be just another hurdle to clear as he tries to follow up the single best season by a 39-year-old quarterback by putting together the single best season by a 40-year-old quarterback. Based on his Facebook video, he appears to be up for the challenge.