Baltimore Ravens quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was officially named the cover athlete for EA Sports Madden NFL 21 on Tuesday morning.
“I grew up playing Madden and owned every copy I could get my hands on, so to be on the cover of Madden NFL 21 is a dream come true, especially when the cover represents so much of my story,” Jackson said in a press release. “The welcome to the Madden family from around the league and from fans has been phenomenal and I think people will have a lot of fun with the new features coming in this year’s game.”
The trailer for the game opened with an aerial shot of the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium, and was followed by close-ups of No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium made its video game debut, too, as did the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots’ new uniforms.
Madden NFL 21 marks a drastic departure from the game’s typical cover art, as the coronavirus pandemic prevented EA Sports from holding a photoshoot with Jackson. The company instead approached Ravens team photographer Shawn Hubbard with hopes of using his shots.
The end result yielded three distinct covers, as the standard and deluxe editions include a collage of Hubbard’s photos while the MVP edition features a single black-and-white photo with Jackson’s helmet sitting atop his head along with the quote, “Not bad for a running back,” which was his retort to his critics after he scored five touchdowns in last year’s season-opening blowout win over the Miami Dolphins.
“It just came out of the blue,” Hubbard told the Ravens’ official website. “We were on lockdown with COVID and I know they usually have a shoot for it. It just wasn’t something I expected with all the other bad news happening. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never played Madden – ever. Maybe they’ll send me a copy and I’ll get started.”
Jackson becomes just the second Baltimore Raven to grace the cover of the Madden series, joining linebacker Ray Lewis in 2005. That marked the first time that a defensive player was featured.
Previous Madden covers have naturally featured legendary Raiders head coach John Madden or a single photo of the chosen athlete (or athletes) with varying background images. This year’s offering is a bit of a throwback in that respect, as the covers in the mid-1990s featured a single photo surrounded by negative space and the name of the game.
This year’s game – which will hit stores on Aug. 28 – notably features a new career mode titled “Rise To Fame,” a playable documentary in which a user can play as themselves from high school through the pros. It will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, with the option to eventually upgrade to the next generation platforms at no additional charge.
Photos via EA Sports and the Baltimore Ravens.