Release of 'Madden 16' brings memories, complaints from NFL players

"As long as I go through all the linebackers and see who's the fastest, if I'm Top 5, OK," Jacksonville's Telvin Smith said. "If I'm not, I've got to call somebody. I'm calling EA [Sports]." Stacy Revere/Getty Images

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Though "Madden 16" doesn't officially hit shelves until Tuesday, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith has already spent some time playing an advance copy of the video game.

And like nearly every NFL player who plays it, he checked out his rating the first time he fired it up. Unlike a good portion, though, he was actually fine with his numbers.

"They've got my acceleration at like a 90, speed at like an 88 or something like that, and I said, ‘OK, that's fine,'" Smith said. "As long as I go through all the linebackers and see who's the fastest, if I'm top five, OK. If I'm not, I've got to call somebody. I'm calling EA [Sports]."

Video games are big with players across the league and the annual release of Madden football is generally one of the most anticipated days, especially among the younger players. Most have grown up playing the game and the release of the new edition sends them back to their childhood.

Recalling some of the times they played the game didn't always result in good memories.

Detroit Lions rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, for example, won't ever forget the beatings he got from his older brother Kareem.

"He used to beat me down in Madden," Abdullah said. "I used to get so frustrated. I would just quit. I was like, ‘You're up by 40 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Let's just call it quits, shake hands, and go our separate ways, you know. Don't talk about this outside the house.'

"When I was younger [he would get mad], because he has a mouth and he's a talker and obviously older brothers know what to say to get under your skin, but once I got older it was like, ‘You win some, you lose some.'"

One player who hasn't lost many is New York Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison. He's had the game for two weeks and recently finished a season in franchise mode, taking the Jets to a Super Bowl title. It gets even weirder when he explained how he did it.

He was mad at his speed rating of 50 -- "We need to talk to the Madden guy about speed, man," he said. "I'm a whole lot faster." -- so he fudged his overall rating to a 99. He also played himself at tight end during the Super Bowl against Seattle. He didn't have any catches in the game, though.

As for his quarterback …

"I went with my guy Geno [Smith] throughout the year," he said. "I turned injuries off, so, you know, everybody was able to stay around for the entire year."

Jaguars running back Storm Johnson also got an early copy of the game, but unlike Smith and Harrison he didn't check his rating. He didn't check it when he was a rookie last season, either, and said he hasn't since he looked at it in EA Sports' NCAA Football game when he was in college. He said he's pretty sure he won't be happy with his current rating so why bother.

"Last time I looked at my rating probably was when I was at the University of Miami [in 2010]," Johnson said. "They probably got it accurate then, but after that I don't even deal with it."

For some players, it's not about the rating or playing the game. It's the fact that they're actually in the game that's the most important thing.

"The first time I saw myself in the game, my face in the game in 2011, it was one of those surreal moments," said Detroit linebacker Josh Bynes, who is in his fourth NFL season. "Just amazing, to see my family and friends to see my face on the game. Sometimes they screenshot a picture or they'll show a video of me catching an interception. It's cool, you know what I mean?

"It's very rare. Only 53 guys can make a roster, you know, so it's tough. To see your face on Madden, it's crazy."

That even awes a real Super Bowl star.

"That's kind of special, to see yourself on the video game rated," New England cornerback Malcolm Butler said. "I haven't seen it yet. I'm not sure what I'll be rated, but I'll find out sooner or later."

ESPN reporters Michael Rothstein, Mike Reiss and Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this story.