For one, we know polarizing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will not be gracing the game’s cover. Newton lost out to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson by a 52/48 margin of over 600,000 fan votes on ESPN.com.
Whether you buy into the “Madden Curse” or not, the odds were stacked against Johnson to even make the cover against Newton, who rose to prominence quarterbacking Auburn to a national championship and winning a Heisman Trophy while embattled in an alleged pay-for-play recruiting scandal.
Johnson, one of the league’s most dominant receivers for the past two seasons, is the first wide receiver to grace the cover of the game solo (the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald shared the cover with Troy Polamalu on “Madden NFL 10”). History would’ve pointed to Newton taking the honors, with his impressive rookie season and the fact that six quarterbacks have previously graced the front of the game.
It’s fitting that either a pass-catcher or pass-receiver was going to highlight the game, which has emphasised an overhaul to the passing game. On the laundry list of issues that sorely needed fixing where the temp of play action, pump fakes and seemingly “psychic” defensive backs, all of which appear to have been addressed.
The other big news in “Madden” land is that the play-by-play and color commentary will be done by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. The Nantz/Simms combo is the fifth incarnation of "Madden's" commentary team, and the first since the John Madden/Al Michaels era that shows real promise. While Chris Collinsworth’s folksy football wisdom and Gus Johnson’s over-the-top excitement worked in spots, it never seemed like they were on the same planet, much less the same broadcast booth.
The “Madden” team will be releasing chunks of info on the game through its “Playbooks” series throughout the spring and summer. The next installment will be on May 14 and focus on in-game audio, while more big details are scheduled to be revealed on June 4 and July 9. With the NFL Draft kicking off tonight in New York and EA releasing this first wave of “Madden NFL 13” details, the new football season is starting to come into clearer focus both on the field and your screen.