Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes share Madden ’22 cover

After fighting it out in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are sharing the cover for Madden ’22.

The video game released in August is one of the most popular sports titles with a segment of fans who admittedly take a day off for the on-sale date.

“Whenever you first get on the cover, that’s a special moment,” Mahomes told ESPN. “So to be on it again, twice, with an all-time great like Tom Brady, it’s a special moment that I’m glad that I’m able to do so soon after I had done it the first time.

“I’ll be able to have it for the rest of my life and be able to show my kids and my kids’ kids that I was on it two times.”

Brady and Mahomes are each on the cover for the second time, with Brady (then with the New England Patriots) gracing Madden ’18 and Mahomes on Madden ’20.

Brady was MVP of Super Bowl LV as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in February. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a win in the NFL title game the previous season and won MVP honors.

The last time two players shared the cover was Madden ’10 with Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Brady debuted in Madden ’01 with a player rating of 57, but not by name. He was listed as QB No. 12 and fourth-string with the Patriots.

Mahomes was a member of the “99 Club” last year, a nod to the near-perfect rating given to only a select class of NFL players. He has been the top-rated quarterback in Madden the past two years.

–Field Level Media

The hands of an esport gamer clutching the controler at Encore Esports Gaming Lounge in New Rochelle on Thursday, December 20, 2018. 

E Sports

Ravens unveil esports league

The Baltimore Ravens are making an ambitious push into the world of esports.

The NFL team announced Monday the creation of the Ravens Gaming League, featuring public tournaments and activities, as well as a multi-year affiliation with Esports Entertainment Group (EEG).

The Ravens Gaming League will start with a Fortnite event set to run June 25-27. A Madden NFL 22 event will follow later in the summer, with the dates yet to be revealed.

Ravens senior vice president of marketing Brad Downs said in a statement, “We are excited to launch this new initiative and explore the benefits for our fans. The gaming and esports industry offer unique opportunities to engage with our fan base, in addition to Ravens players who have shown interest in gaming and esports.”

The Ravens Gaming League will use EEG’s Esports Gaming League (EGL) platform.

EGL chief executive officer Grant Johnson added in a statement, “Our esports tournament platform continues to gain strong traction among top-tier professional sports franchises. We are delighted to add the Ravens as our first NFL partner to go live on our platform.”

Ravens fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard said in a video posted on the team’s Twitter feed, “You’ll have the chance to win cash prizes, autographed merch and the opportunity to test your skills against me.”

Registration is open for the Fortnite competition, for which the champion will receive $500 plus a Ravens “VIP home game experience” featuring a hotel stay, transportation to the game, team merchandise and the chance to compete against a Ravens player.

Details can be found at BaltimoreRavens.com/gaming.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (center) catches a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK

Cardinals’ Hopkins earns perfect 99 in Madden 21

DeAndre Hopkins is having a good week.

Four days after he caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills, the wide receiver had his rating in the Madden NFL 21 games raised to a perfect 99 on Thursday.

Hopkins previously had a 98 rating.

EA Sports’ Madden Twitter account posted, using Hopkins’ nickname, “Nuk coming down with that #99Club Chain?? Congrats @DeAndreHopkins @AZCardinals #Madden21”

The Cardinals tweeted, “Should’ve been there all along, but @DeAndreHopkins is the newest member of the #Madden21 99 Club.”

Hopkins had a 99 Madden rating last year. This year, he joins just six other players in the club: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

One downside for Hopkins on Thursday: His Cardinals lost 28-21 to the Seattle Seahawks as he was held to five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (center) catches a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK

Cardinals’ Hopkins earns perfect 99 in Madden 21

DeAndre Hopkins is having a good week.

Four days after he caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills, the wide receiver had his rating in the Madden NFL 21 games raised to a perfect 99 on Thursday.

Hopkins previously had a 98 rating.

EA Sports’ Madden Twitter account posted, using Hopkins’ nickname, “Nuk coming down with that #99Club Chain?? Congrats @DeAndreHopkins @AZCardinals #Madden21”

The Cardinals tweeted, “Should’ve been there all along, but @DeAndreHopkins is the newest member of the #Madden21 99 Club.”

Hopkins had a 99 Madden rating last year. This year, he joins just six other players in the club: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

One downside for Hopkins on Thursday: His Cardinals lost 28-21 to the Seattle Seahawks as he was held to five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (center) catches a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK

Cardinals’ Hopkins earns perfect 99 in Madden 21

DeAndre Hopkins is having a good week.

Four days after he caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills, the wide receiver had his rating in the Madden NFL 21 games raised to a perfect 99 on Thursday.

Hopkins previously had a 98 rating.

EA Sports’ Madden Twitter account posted, using Hopkins’ nickname, “Nuk coming down with that #99Club Chain?? Congrats @DeAndreHopkins @AZCardinals #Madden21”

The Cardinals tweeted, “Should’ve been there all along, but @DeAndreHopkins is the newest member of the #Madden21 99 Club.”

Hopkins had a 99 Madden rating last year. This year, he joins just six other players in the club: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

One downside for Hopkins on Thursday: His Cardinals lost 28-21 to the Seattle Seahawks as he was held to five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (center) catches a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK

Cardinals’ Hopkins earns perfect 99 in Madden 21

DeAndre Hopkins is having a good week.

Four days after he caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills, the wide receiver had his rating in the Madden NFL 21 games raised to a perfect 99 on Thursday.

Hopkins previously had a 98 rating.

EA Sports’ Madden Twitter account posted, using Hopkins’ nickname, “Nuk coming down with that #99Club Chain?? Congrats @DeAndreHopkins @AZCardinals #Madden21”

The Cardinals tweeted, “Should’ve been there all along, but @DeAndreHopkins is the newest member of the #Madden21 99 Club.”

Hopkins had a 99 Madden rating last year. This year, he joins just six other players in the club: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

One downside for Hopkins on Thursday: His Cardinals lost 28-21 to the Seattle Seahawks as he was held to five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Jan 26, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; AFC legends coaches Bruce Smith (center) and Terrell Davis (right)  hoist the trophy during interview by ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters after the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl against the NFC at Camping World Stadium. The AFC defeated the NFC 38-33.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Bowl will be contested on Madden NFL 21

The Pro Bowl, previously canceled by the NFL due to the coronavirus pandemic, is back on — albeit with a major twist.

The game will be conducted virtually using the Madden NFL 21 video game.

Gamemaker EA Sports will team with the NFL to set up a week of matchups with celebrities, former NFL stars, current NFL players and streamers competing with the 2021 Pro Bowl rosters. The week’s culmination will be the virtual Pro Bowl, with active players who were selected to the team competing against each other.

“Even amidst unparalleled change across the sports industry, we are excited to transition many of the signature components of the Pro Bowl — which will go virtual in Madden NFL 21 — into a new innovative experience for our players and fans,” NFL executive vice president of club business and events Peter O’Reilly said in a statement. “We remain committed to using our Pro Bowl platform to empower fans to virtually celebrate the best players in the game.”

Electronic Arts executive vice president of marketing, commercial & positive play Chris Bruzzo added in a statement, “We are transforming the Pro Bowl for fans everywhere and bringing another amazing NFL experience to life in the way only Madden NFL can. We’re excited to work closely with the NFL, our long-time partner, to move the Pro Bowl to the virtual fields of Madden NFL and be part of the first high-profile sporting event to go virtual. Our community is hungry for more interactive experiences, so we are always working to create more opportunities to bring them closer to the sports they love.”

Pro Bowl balloting started Tuesday at NFL.com/ProBowlVote and will continue through Dec. 17. Voting will also be allowed through Madden NFL 21 Mobile and Madden NFL 21 on consoles, and Twitter votes will be accepted Dec. 1-17 using #ProBowlVote.

On Dec. 18, NFL players and coaches will cast their Pro Bowl ballots. The voting will be weighed evenly between fan ballots, player ballots and coach ballots, with 44 players getting selected from each conference.

The Pro Bowl originally was scheduled for Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Feb. 7

–Field Level Media

The Intersection of the NFL and Esports: AFC West

The overlap between the NFL and video games is massive. The players are actively gaming in their free time and many of the owners are directly or indirectly invested in the industry. I am going division by division highlighting star players on the field who also have a love for video games/esports.
Marshawn Lynch – RB Oakland Raiders
BeastMode is an investor in NRG Esports, an avid Call of Duty and Fortnite player and was even a character in a scene in Call of Duty Black Ops III campaign.
At NRG Esports, Lynch joined a star-studded investor group that contains Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O’Neal, Ryan Howard and Jennifer Lopez, among other athletes and celebrities. The organization was started by Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov and has top-level talent in a variety of games including Overwatch, Rocket League and Fortnite.
He has been an outspoken advocate for Call of Duty for years and Treyarch – the developer of Black Ops 3 – rewarded him by putting him in the background of a scene in the campaign. Lynch called it “one of the highlights of my career.”

(He’s at the back table, sitting on the left, drinking aggressively)
He can also be found playing Fortnite and crashing Conan’s Clueless Gamer set to rip the heads off some fools in Doom.
Von Miller – LB Denver Broncos
The Clueless Gamer video that Lynch crashed was supposed to be between Josh Norman and Miller but if BeastMode wants in, he gets in.

Miller is also a huge gamer himself and thinks that gaming is a natural extension of NFL players competitive instinct.
“As athletes, we compete over everything, and a game like ‘Call of Duty’ is about as competitive as it gets,” Miller told ESPN’s Jon Robinson in 2012. “With the competitive aspect of the game, you can be down a couple of kills and you just want to come back. That’s what draws all athletes to ‘Call of Duty.’ There is just so much competitive spirit involved.”
He has been a gamer his whole life growing up on Tecmo Bowl and Contra as a kid. In addition to shooter games he also plays a lot of sports games but – at least at the time of that ESPN interview – said FIFA and NBA 2K were bigger communities than Madden.
“Everybody plays “FIFA.” Sure, there are guys on the team that love “Madden,” but what people might not realize is “FIFA” has the biggest online community out there, and “2K13” might be second.”
FIFA’s success as an esport has a lot to do with pure fluidity, it’s likely the best sports simulation gaming experience on the market.
Eric Berry – S Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs safety has battled more off-the-field adversity than just about anyone in the NFL. Most football fans will remember his fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that forced him to miss multiple years; but what they might not know is the role that video games helped play in his recovery.
“The thing that kept me mentally sharp was playing video games. That’s the way I was getting reps,” Berry told SportTechie’s Mark J. Burns. “A lot of people don’t understand that visualization is one of the most powerful things you can do. Doing that through a video game where you put yourself through a situation in a first person point of view and you see it from a big picture point of view from how things work together, it can work wonders.”
Especially for someone missing the football field, Madden is the closest thing he could get for a while. In addition to Madden he also plays Call of Duty and told Burns that game can help with decision-making and critical thinking.
“The cerebral part of gaming, some people don’t look at it as a skill, that’s definitely a skill — to be able to think, react and maneuver so quickly,” Berry told Burns.
Tyreek Hill – WR Kansas City Chiefs
Hill is one of the most explosive players in the game today but when he’s not at practice or studying the playbook, he’s dropping into Fortnite games. According to comments on his Twitch stream on Reddit, he’s actually pretty good.
I play like three hours (at a time),” Hill told Deaundra Allen at the Kansas City Star. “I’m getting ready to set up my camera tonight so I can Twitch and people can see me play the game.”
His stream name is “imfasterthanya” but only has 2,100 total views as a channel. Especially during the offseason players need a way to fill time. Many find it through video games and studying the playbook, and for Hill it’s in that order.
“After I get done playing Fortnite, I try to schedule in some downtime for my playbook, watching film and watching other receivers,” he told the KC Star.
He plays with guys on the team like new quarterback Pat Mahomes and also talks trash to other AFC playoff rivals like Le’Veon Bell.


Joey Bosa – DE Los Angeles Chargers
Bosa has already made a name for himself as one of the standout young defensive stars in the league after the Chargers took him third in the 2016 NFL Draft. Coming from a national championship at Ohio State, Bosa was the man around Columbus. But following a violation of the school’s athletic policy, Bosa opted to shy away from the limelight and get a one-bedroom place off campus that had “little more than an Xbox, DVDs, and football gear,” wrote Sports Illustrated.
It was a place free from distractions, and for Bosa, a lifelong gamer, it was exactly what he needed. He finished the season as a first-team All-American and the Buckeyes went 12-1. The SI article doesn’t say what he was playing during that time, but according to an interview he did with Inverse, he has been a Call of Duty fan since he was young.
“I’ve been playing video games my entire life, ever since I had the Nintendo 64 that my grandma got me,” Bosa told Inverse. “Then I got my PS2 and have just been moving onto playing Call of Duty, and I’ve been a big gamer all of my life, me and my friends. It’s been a big part of our after-school time hanging out. It’s kept us off the streets and out of trouble.”
He found a reprieve from distractions through video games while growing up and while at Ohio State. Now he still plays with his friends back home, mostly Call of Duty, Rocket League and FIFA. I’ll bet head coach Anthony Lynn prefers him doing that than getting into the many distractions in Los Angeles.
This is part five of our division-by-division look at the overlap of the NFL and esports/gaming. The articles come out bi-weekly and the NFC can be found here with the West, North, East and South.

Five Players in the NFC West Who Play Esports

Richard Sherman – CB San Francisco 49ers
An avid Call of Duty player, Sherman attended the Call of Duty World Championships in 2016. He had plans to attend the DOTA 2 International – boasting the highest prize pool in esports at over 24 million in 2018 – and teased the possibility of investing in esports in the future.
In an interview with ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, Sherman said “We’re competitors in every aspect of our lives and we’re always looking for another opportunity to compete, I think [Call of Duty] gives everybody a chance to be good at it.”
It’s that competitive nature that makes so many football players’ gamers and vice-versa, so many gamers football fans.
With Sherman’s move from Seattle to San Francisco, the key piece of the Legion of Boom will be in Silicon Valley – one of North America’s esports hubs.
In that same interview, Sherman said he might be interested in investing in esports one day.
“[Esports] has grown so rapidly over the last couple years, I think everyone is starting to [take] notice and pay attention,” he says. “These guys are out here competing for $2 million [at the Call of Duty World Championships]. That’s real money. That’s as real as it gets. I’m looking forward to seeing how that industry grows and maybe, maybe getting more involved.”
One organization he could consider investing in is NRG Esports. Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov founded the team based out of San Francisco in December of 2015. They have a slew of name-brand athlete investors already. Shaq, Alex Rodriquez, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Howard, and Marshawn Lynch – just to name a few.
Sherman is fully focused on recovering from his Achilles tear and transitioning to a new team. As his recovery progresses and he becomes settled in the bay, look for him to make more appearances in the esports world.
Todd Gurley – RB Los Angeles Rams
Gurley runs through opposing defenses like a freight train and plays Call of Duty the same way.
“I’m aggressive, I don’t really care if I get killed… If I get killed 50 times so be it as long as I get to kill as many people as I can,” Gurley told GamerHub TV at the release party for Black Ops 4 the latest iteration of one of the longest running game series ever.
On professional gamers: “Those guys are beasts out there, I did a thing with Matt Forte and we had like two or three kills and those guys had 15, 20, 30 kills. Those guys are beasts, I totally respect what they do.”

“We had a Rams Call of Duty group chat my rookie year, it’s crazy popular in the league. It’s a game that’s been around for so long that we were all playing that in college and in high school,” Gurley said in the video.
While Gurley is an avid COD player, one of his primary blockers has taken a love for the game to a whole new level.
Rodger Saffold – G Los Angeles Rams
Saffold was one of the first NFL players to make a big push into the esports industry. In fact, he was one of the first traditional sports athletes across all sports to get in. In 2014 he helped to found Rise Nation, an esports organization competing in Call of Duty. Now he serves as CEO and under him, Rise has become one of the dominant teams in COD.
2018 has been good to Rise as the team went 13-1 in the first stage of the CWL Pro League before going undefeated in CWL Atlanta Open to establish themselves as one of the top teams in North America this season.
“When I started figuring out that esports was growing, and I saw they were all over the internet on Twitch — when I saw that there were these huge events — I was like, ‘OK, I need to get into this,” Saffold told ESPN’s Imad Khan in 2016.
In the locker room, his teammates are curious and Saffold does what he can to introduce them to esports.
“I always get questions like ‘Hey, how is our team doing?’ [and] like ‘Hey, what’s going on, what’s going down this weekend?'” he said in the ESPN interview.
Saffold started Rise Nation when the team was still in St. Louis. The move to Los Angeles was positive for his – and Stan Kroenke’s – esports business. LA is the home of major game developers Riot and Blizzard and the site of tournaments year round. His fellow Ram teammates – and now the Chargers as well – have all the opportunity in the world to be involved in esports, with Saffold as a model, that floodgate could open soon.
David Johnson – RB Arizona Cardinals
In addition to being a star running back and top fantasy pick, Johnson is also a huge fan of Call of Duty.
(I promise there are more esports than just COD, it just happens to be the favorite of many NFL players, along with Fortnite.)
There is no doubt that the man was gaming while he recovered from his injury last year. Especially now that he received a custom, portable Xbox system from fellow gamer and ex-NFL player Hank Baskett.
Baskett was at one point named a co-owner of Denial Esports but that company folded because of a history of not paying it’s employees. That’s all happened prior to Baskett’s involvement, he was just caught up in the cross-fire.


Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas – LB/S Seattle Seahawks
Wagner and Thomas both attended PAX in 2015, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. While there they played a couple of games of Madden (Thomas won both by a small margin, 10-7, 7-0) and talked Destiny and Madden ratings with GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper.
“I think I’m a 99,” said Thomas who was rated 95 in that year’s game.
He also wanted to be clear on his geekiness, “I don’t think I’m a geek, I think I’m Earl Thomas.”
Wagner said he had a unique motivation – staying on top of the familial food chain. “I like to play with my nephews a bunch and I need to make sure I stay up with these games so they never beat me,” he told Soper.
Between Wagner, Sherman and Thomas, there were definitely some heated games of Madden in the Seahawks locker room. With 14 Pro Bowl appearances between the three defensive stars, I imagine the games were pretty low scoring.