EA Sports announced Thursday that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be on the cover of Madden 17 this year.
The previous five covers were determined by a fan vote, but this year EA Sports decided to take matters into its own hands. Other players who were believed to be in contention for the honor were Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and J.J. Watt. Only three defensive players have ever been on the Madden cover.
Gronkowski made it to the finals of the fan vote for 2015's Madden 16, but he lost out to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Now that Gronkowski is on the front of the video game, he'll have to try to avoid the Madden Curse. According to Encyclopedia Gamia, the 23 players who have been on the front of Madden since 1999 had 110 Pro Bowl appearances prior to being placed on the cover. They've been to the Pro Bowl just 25 times afterward.
Gronkowski played in 15 games last season, catching 72 passes for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is a couple seasons removed from serious injuries that had his future in the league in doubt. He played in just 11 games in 2012 and seven games in 2013 but seems to have left all that behind him. The 26-year-old is one of the best tight ends in the league and continues to play for a Patriots team that's consistently playoff-bound.
This year's Madden release will have a renewed focus on franchise mode, and the biggest gameplay improvements will include "ball-carrier feedback cues" and new "defender fake-out mechanics" according to a listing for the game that appeared early on Microsoft's Xbox Live online store. The franchise mode is one that fans have felt has been neglected in recent years, with a lack of interesting new features. Presumably, they will attempt to remedy this with the latest iteration in the series.
That leak also featured Gronkowski as the first image attached to it, but EA Sports denied that this was an indication that Gronkowski would be the cover athlete. Of course, they did what they needed to do to save their announcement.