By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

Madden NFL 07 is out.

And with it are the new player ratings. Speed, strength, agility, acceleration, tackling ability, awareness, stamina, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Each NFL player is graded each year by the game designers in two dozen categories to capture an accurate representation of skill level in the game.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a spreadsheet Monday containing all the player ratings for Madden in every category. But instead of just sharing a boring Excel document with you, I decided to pull out the most interesting tidbits I could find from the mountain of numbers I was handed.

I hope my work will allow you to enjoy the game at an even deeper level. So without further ado, let's count down the ratings from 99 to 0.

Shawn Alexander
EA Sports
Shortly after announcing Alexander would be on the cover, several fans kidnapped the running back and wrapped him in bubble wrap.

99 -- The highest overall player rating in the game. This went to five players this year: Champ Bailey, Peyton Manning, Shane Lechler, Ed Reed and Walter Jones. Yet EA Sports picked a guy with a 98, Shaun Alexander, for the cover. Strange. Personally, I would have gone with Oakland punter Shane Lechler and his 99 rating as the face of the game -- because if someone like Alexander or Manning goes down as a victim of the Madden jinx, the NFL takes a marketing hit. But if a punter gets hurt? Eh ... who cares. No one likes those guys anyway. All they are is a reminder that your team couldn't move the ball on offense. And putting a punter on the cover of a video game would be awesome. It would be almost ironic and campy. Kind of like how putting a Seattle Seahawks player on the cover of a video game would have seemed three or four years ago.

99 -- Ego rating for 16 players deemed the most arrogant in the NFL. And not surprisingly, five of the 16 players -- Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow Jr., Clinton Portis, Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis -- are from "The U." (So called, of course, because football players who received their "education" in Miami are often unable to remember the actual name of their institution of higher learning.)

98 -- The awareness rating for Ray Lewis. That strikes me as a bit high for a guy who for the longest time couldn't remember anything about a certain evening in Atlanta a few years ago, don't you agree?

95 -- Larry Johnson's overall rating. Wait ... what?! Only 95? How can that be? That means he's ranked behind Shaun Alexander (98), LaDainian Tomlinson (97) and Edgerrin James (96) at running back. But I thought he was the clear choice in every fantasy football publication as this year's top-rated fantasy player? But in Madden he is only the fourth-best player at his position? What completely arbitrary means of measuring player worth am I to believe? I'm so confused.

90 -- Brett Favre's morale rating. While I disagree a bit with Ray Lewis' attributes, this one is right on. Playing against Brett Favre is absolutely fantastic for a team's morale.

89 -- Eli Manning's passer accuracy rating, good enough to put him in the upper tier of quarterbacks. True, this makes no sense to anyone who has ever seen Eli Manning play, but understand that the good folks at EA Sports aren't infallible. In fact, they rate just an 11 in the "accurately assigning passer accuracy" ratings category.

87 -- Reggie Bush's overall rating, the highest for a rookie player in this year's game.

86 -- Mario Williams' overall rating. Oh, snap, Texans! That's the final nail in the coffin. Your decision to pick Williams over Bush is now proven to be wrong without a doubt. Once a video game rates Williams as inferior to Bush, well ... that's the last word. I hope you apologize to your fans for your mistake. And perhaps next year you'll consult with the folks at EA Sports before handing your pick to the commissioner. Morons.

62 -- Tom Brady's strength rating -- a rather pedestrian number. Especially considering Brady has been taking steroids nonstop for the better part of a decade due to his close, personal relationship with Barry Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson. (It's true, I read it on the Internet.)

56 -- Carson Palmer's speed rating. In last year's game he had a 58. I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing this two-point drop can be attributed to Kimo Von Oelhoffen's perfect 100 rating in the little-known "dudes you don't want to #%&@ with" category.

53 -- The overall player rating for Ethan Albright, Washington's long snapper -- the lowest overall player rating in the entire game. But Albright shouldn't be too upset about his overall rating because he was given a rare 100 score in the player morale category -- meaning that while he may be a terrible football player, his teammates are inspired by his presence. He's practically a modern-day "Radio."

44 -- Drew Bledsoe's agility rating. Proof that the people at EA Sports are kind, generous souls. And that their rating system does not include negative numbers.

35 -- The strength rating for Eagles receiver Todd Pinkston. How weak is Stinkston? Thirty-nine kickers and punters are given higher ratings. Thirty-nine. Yikes. If that's not a punch in the frail, tender, feeble stomach, then I don't know what is. In fact, I'm kind of excited to fire up Madden '07 to see if the game's programmers switched Pinkston's mug shot with that of a cat. Might as well hammer home the point, huh?

Alex Smith
EA Sports
Madden's advanced technology allows one to simulate what Alex Smith would look like remaining vertical for an entire play.

35 -- Not that Pinkston is the only non-kicker to get a 35 strength rating. Eagles receiver and kick returner Jeremy Bloom got one, too. So remember, Eagles fans: just tap that pass button in Madden '07. You don't want Donovan McNabb to accidentally kill his waifish receiving corps with high-velocity throws.

25 -- The player morale rating for Terrell Owens, far and away the lowest in the game. So apparently to get lower than 25 in this category a player has to be coming off of a season in which he actually murdered a teammate. (Maybe that's something the Bengals can try to achieve for Madden 2008.)

25 -- Speaking of the Bengals, 25 is Chris Henry's ego rating. I thought it would be a bit higher for a guy who was wearing his own jersey at the time of an arrest on gun charges earlier this year. "I'm Chris [bleeping] Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals, copper. It says here right on the back of my shirt, see? Henry, No. 15. We made the playoffs and everything. I'm not afraid of you and your laws."

21 -- The lowest toughness rating in the game, which was given to Carolina Panthers punter Jason Baker. I can't recall any especially cowardly behavior during Baker's career, but that doesn't matter; he's a wimp in Madden. The games are in stores and there's no way to change it now. So, Jason, you should know that the folks at EA Sports think you're an enormous pansy. Now, now -- don't cry. It's nothing personal.

0 -- Ego number assigned to several dozen lower-tier NFL players. Either this means the game designers feel mediocre players are humble, or they think such players can't possibly have an ego because they've done absolutely nothing in life worthy of pride and boasting. Unlike people who have already made it to Week 12 in franchise mode before even reading this.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site He is also a regular contributor to ESPN the Magazine and Fantasy Sports Monthly, and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- will be in stores soon.