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Originally published Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Now do you believe in the "Madden" curse?

Add Shaun Alexander to the list of athletes injured the year they appear on the cover of the popular "Madden" football video game, as what...

Add Shaun Alexander to the list of athletes injured the year they appear on the cover of the popular "Madden" football video game, as what began as a coincidence has come to be characterized as a curse.

Alexander is the sixth consecutive athlete featured on the cover to suffer an injury that forced him to miss at least one game.

"It's unfortunate," said Chris Erb, who is the director of marketing for EA Sports. "We work so close with these athletes, and we root for them to succeed."

Erb has more than a simple rooting interest in Alexander. Erb is from Seattle, attended Washington, and was at Sunday's game against the New York Giants, having flown here to watch the Huskies on Saturday and the Seahawks on Sunday.

"Both personally and for work," Erb said. "I'm really bummed to see Shaun go down."

Alexander has been diagnosed with a fracture in his left foot. He is out indefinitely. He said this offseason that he didn't believe in curses and wasn't superstitious.

"Curse or no curse, everybody, and I mean everybody, wants to be on that cover," Alexander told The Times. "I don't know one person that would say no."

The cover boys

• 1999 ("Madden 2000"): Barry Sanders. The first NFL player to be on the cover quickly became the first former NFL player on the cover. He retired before training camp began.

• 2000 ("Madden 2001"): Eddie George. Hardly cursed as he rushed for 1,509 yards and 16 touchdowns, both career highs.

• 2001 ("Madden 2002"): Daunte Culpepper. Missed the final five games with a knee injury, but the curse kicked in well before the injury. He went from being tied for the league lead with 33 TD passes in 2000 to having almost as many interceptions (13) as touchdown passes (14) in 2001.

• 2002 ("Madden 2003"): Marshall Faulk. He rushed for 1,000 yards in seven of his first eight seasons, but he hasn't surpassed that mark since appearing on the cover of the game. In 2002, he missed two games with an injured ankle.

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• 2003 ("Madden 2004"): Michael Vick. Suffered a broken right leg during an exhibition game. He missed the first 11 games of the regular season.

• 2004 ("Madden 2005"): Ray Lewis. The Ravens' linebacker didn't have an interception for the only time in his career. He missed the regular-season finale because of an injured wrist.

• 2005 ("Madden 2006"): Donovan McNabb. After the Eagles slipped to a 4-5 record, McNabb missed the final seven games because of a sports hernia.

• 2006 ("Madden 2007"): Shaun Alexander. He gained 187 yards in the first three games, his slowest start since 2002, and now is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his left foot.

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