By Barry Janoff
March 7, 2012: Tim Tebow, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Rob Gronkowski and Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul of the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants are among 64 players part of fan voting to determine the athlete who will appear on the cover of EA Sports' Madden NFL 13 videogame.
This marks the third year of fan voting and the second year in which EA Sports is conducting the vote in association with ESPN. Last year, nearly 13 million votes were cast through ESPNSportsNation.com and ESPN mobile, according to EA Sports.
As with last year, the winner will be unveiled on SportsNation with Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd.
Running back Peyton Hillis of the Cleveland Browns won the spot on the cover of Madden NFL 12 in a final vote over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees was voted onto the cover of Madden NFL 11.
Due to its popularity, the field of eligible players was expanded to include a play-in round, which features two players from the same NFL team vying to advance to the official 32-player, seeded tournament. (See full list below.)
The expanded field also means that more players are vying to become part of an urban legend: the Madden NFL cover curse. Among the players who have succumbed to the curse are:
• Michael Vick, who was on the cover of Madden NFL 04 but then missed much of the season with a broken leg and subsequently went to prison due to his participation in a dog-fighting ring.
• Donovan McNabb, cover athlete for Madden NFL 06, who suffered a torn ACL during the season.
• Madden NFL 07 cover athlete Shaun Alexander, who missed six games that season due to a foot injury.
• Troy Polamalu, co-cover athlete on Madden NFL 10, who suffered through several injuries that year that caused him to miss about half the season.
Most recently, Hillis missed six games last season due to injuries and ailments and saw his production drop from 1,177 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in 2010 to 587 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Voting for Madden NFL 13 runs now through March 21 at the SportsNation Facebook page and can be tracked via EA Sports' Madden NFL Twitter page. For the cover vote from March 21-April 25, all voting must be cast at ESPN.com/MaddenVote.
Every Wednesday between March 21 and April 25, SportsNation (on ESPN2) will update Madden NFL 13 cover vote standings.
"As for whether or not we’ll see a repeat of 2012 winner Peyton Hillis’ run for the cover, who surprised many by winning the vote as a 10th seed," EA Sports wrote on its Madden NFL blog, "there are plenty of players who could fly under the radar – at least at the start of the campaign – and still come out on top."