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Rob Gronkowski confirmed as Madden NFL 17 cover athlete (update)

All hail the cover curse

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots will appear on the cover of Madden NFL 17, ESPN announced today on SportsCenter.

The announcement confirms an overnight leak from the Xbox Games Store, in which artwork of Gronkowski appeared in product listings for Madden 17. Gronkowski's pose on the final cover is different from the one in the leaked artwork, but he's still spiking a football.

Gronkowski, 26, has played six years in the NFL so far, all of them with the Patriots, and is already one of the best tight ends in the history of the league. He is a four-time Pro Bowl honoree and has racked up 65 regular-season touchdowns, the third-most in any NFL player's first six seasons. Gronkowski is the first tight end to grace the cover of a Madden game.

"It's a dream come true," Gronkowski said on SportsCenter.

Madden NFL 17 launches Aug. 23 on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. You can see the PS4 and Xbox One covers below.

Madden NFL 17 screenshot 04 661

Update: You can see Gronkowski in action in Madden 17's debut trailer above. The 40-second video includes "real world and game engine footage."

Madden 17 developer EA Tiburon laid out its plans for the game in a post on the series' website, saying that the studio wants to "address all three phases of the game on offense, defense, and special teams."

Tiburon is working on the running game, separating special moves into different tiers so that the moves they can pull off are tied to their ratings. Madden 17 will also offer more tutorial elements to players, teaching those moves with prompts in the game interface and highlighting paths for running backs.

On defense, Tiburon is touting AI improvements to areas like gap play, zone coverage and protection of the edges of the field. And special teams, a long-dormant area of Madden, is getting a lot of attention this year. Tiburon is revamping the kick meter, allowing teams to ice the kicker, introducing a mechanic for blocking kicks, and adding trick plays.

Madden NFL 17 cover (PS4) 827

Madden NFL 17 cover (Xbox One) 733

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