Admitted Dogfighter Michael Vick a Candidate for Madden NFL 12 Cover

EA Sports will put the cover of Madden NFL 12 up to a vote of fans for a second year, this time staging a 32-player, March Madness-style playoff from today through April 27. Michael Vick, the notorious Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who served nearly two years in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring, is a candidate.

Voting will be conducted in partnership with ESPN at www.ESPN.com/MaddenVote. A pick-the-bracket contest with prizes, including Super Bowl tickets, is being held at the Madden Facebook page.

Vick, who was on the cover of Madden NFL 2004, three years before his legal troubles, will be joined by Madden NFL 11's cover star, Drew Brees of New Orleans, seeking an unusual two straight Madden covers. None but John Madden himself, in the game's early days, have done that.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, will represent the world champion Green Bay Packers. Other candidates include running backs Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville and Adrian Peterson of Minnesota, and Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers.

Last year, EA Sports held a three-way voting competition for the Madden NFL 11 cover, which Brees won easily. The bracket idea is a shrewd move, coming at a time when much of the United States is consumed by picking brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament. EA Sports also needs a little more of a spark - and a long-lasting, visible campaign reminding fans that Madden NFL 12 will release as planned - as an off-putting labor dispute between NFL players and owners wears on.

The bracket will be seeded and fans will vote as the competition progresses through to a final round, meaning 31 different matchups will be held. The full field will be revealed at 4 p.m. EDT today on the ESPN show SportsNation. Kotaku will publish that bracket when it is available.