Q&A: Giants’ Brandon Marshall goes mad for Madden

New York Giants receiver Brandon Marshall. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Brandon Marshall currently has a lot of time on his hands.

Instead of using said hands to catch TD passes from Eli Manning, Marshall has spent his idle time throwing them via gaming consoles. As the New York Giants, wide receiver is out for the season after having surgery on his left ankle in October, he’s had some time to stay close to football by immersing himself in the game he loves. Madden.

After visiting Toronto earlier in the year to support former coach Marc Trestman, Marshall was back in Canada again attending the World Gaming Madden NFL 18 Canadian Challenge in Toronto. I caught up with the six-time Pro Bowl receiver to discuss his love for all things Madden, the video game culture in the locker room and what the future of virtual reality and gaming are in relation to football.

SN – How hardcore is your NFL Madden obsession?

BM – Now that I’ve had kids I don’t play as much but Madden will always be a part of my life. I’m sure my kids will be playing it soon. My nieces and nephews play it. I grew up playing it. It’s a culture, it’s not even a game. I think we’re more competitive when it comes to Madden than we are on the field.

SN – How real is the intensity of the games in the locker room?

BM – Oh, so real. Absolutely! We are probably more competitive when it comes to the video game then we are the real game. Madden is everything, it’s a whole movement, it’s a way of life.

SN – I realized the impact of the game when the U Sports quarterbacks that I interviewed started to tell me they first learned to read defences from playing video games. Does that translate to NFL-level players?

BM – Absolutely, I mean we are starting to see that in VR, right, virtual reality. We can really say that Madden has been VR for so long when it comes to football. There is a company called Oculus that are in our facilities and quarterbacks are going through practice and watching what they did or didn’t do through that. One can say we’ve been doing this for years in Madden, you really can. I was just playing against one of the competitors and I hadn’t played someone of that level for a while but I could pick it back up because I understand coverages and my progressions were easy.

SN – Keeping players healthy is a growing conversation and thus the number of padded practices continues to decrease. Can virtual reality sessions be an alternative to the traditional football practice?

BM – VR is an asset to our game. But it will never replace our game. You can never substitute VR for live reps. It has a place. I think every team and every individual has to figure out what value it has for them or that ball club.

Brandon Marshall says Madden will always be a part of his life. (Photo credit: Cineplex)

SN – You’re in Canada now, there are more and more international games. What is Madden’s role in expanding the exposure of the NFL?

BM – It’s a great partnership. Without us and the players, Madden wouldn’t be what it is. Also, without Madden we wouldn’t have this type of reach, so it’s a great partnership. Our game is in every country in the world because of that game and kids really love it. I just see it growing so much more with social media and the coverage around it. Just a few years ago was the first time I realized there were people really playing in front of 70,000 people in a stadium. I didn’t realize people made this a career. To me this was just a game we played growing up. It’s crazy to see how it has progressed over the years.

SN – Some fellow athletes like Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal have invested and bought E Sports teams. This is now a serious business but the competitors don’t have the risk of physical injuries like the one you currently have. What do you make of the debate on if E Sports gamers should be considered athletes?

BM – I didn’t even know there were guys investing. So, I just learned something again. So, I need to find me a team, I’ll invest, definitely. Are they athletes, I don’t know but I respect them. I respect what they do because it’s extremely hard. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. That is a formula for athletes to be successful. That’s the same formula the gamers use. So, if you can find me a team to invest in I’ll definitely look at it.

SN – Keep it real. When you play, do you play with your tam or the team you think gives you the best chance to win?

BM – I mix it up. I’m going to be honest. I was just playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the reason why is in the updated version me and Odell Beckham Jr. are not on there because we are hurt. So, I was rolling with the Steelers (laughs).