Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, who won a tournament-style fan vote to become the face of "Madden NFL 12," receives as many kudos for the title as he does questions about what many people believe is the "Madden Curse."
"I could get hurt next year, but I don't believe it has anything to do with the curse," Hillis recently told The New York Times while in the Big Apple for a "Madden" photo shoot. "Iâm a Christian man, and I don't believe anything could be put in front of me that God can't take away. I would love to prove everyone wrong and have an exceptional year and not get hurt."
Hillis beat out Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for the video-game cover last month. Vick, who graced the cover of "Madden NFL 2004," broke his leg in 2003 and missed 11 games during the season in which he had the honor.
After his breakout 2010 season, Hillis went from a 10th seed in the 32-player contest to become the 15th "Madden" cover model. Along the way, he also knocked off Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl XLV MVP, by a decisive 61 percent-to-39 percent margin.
Hillis, who lives in Arkansas, said he recently worked out with several of his Browns teammates, including quarterback Colt McCoy, in Austin, Texas. McCoy, who recently said his throwing shoulder is "completely healed," and some teammates are planning another camp, possibly during the middle of May at Kent State, should the NFL's labor stalemate continue to drag. The quarterback said he has reached out to offensive draft picks such as wide receiver Greg Little, tight end Jordan Cameron and fullback Owen Marecic, and they're planning to attend, depending on school schedules.
"I think players are disciplined enough to work out on their own." Hillis told the Times. "The closer training camp time gets here, the more players become self-conscious and it's on their minds to be in shape. If players are not working out really hard right now, they will be."
Hillis also weighed in on a proposed 18-game schedule, saying it would be "really rough" on the players.
"Not only do you have 16 regular-season games, you also have four preseason games," he said. "Then if you make the playoffs, you can have four more games before you get to the Super Bowl. So you can already have 24 games without the 18-game season. And 24 games takes a real toll on somebodyâs body."
Especially when you're on the "Madden" cover.