Bubba Wallace felt out of place. Sunday afternoon, the NASCAR driver found himself in a chat room with a group of current and former NFL stars, as well as Snoop Dogg, in preparation for Madden’s game during Virtual Pro Bowl Sunday.
Like much of the 2020 NFL season, the game had to be changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. So, instead of an actual Pro Bowl, it was put online, with current and former NFL players – as well as Snoop Dogg – each playing a quarter of the game.
Then there was Wallace.
I took it all in and enjoyed it, and then I heard stories and conversations, it was almost like, “Man, I’m actually sitting here talking to these guys,” Wallace said. “I’m just a runner who is nothing like these guys, but, hey, here we are playing against Snoop Dogg, so that was cool.”
“Between him and Marshawn [Lynch], they were the two biggest garbage men, that’s for sure.”
In the end, Wallace, who occasionally plays against Madden but loves Call of Duty more, became the NFC champion with a dominant performance with three touchdowns in the second quarter against Keyshawn Johnson in a 32-12 victory.
Pro Bowl MVP Kyler Murray, Wallace, Jamal Adams and Lynch made up the NFC team. Deshaun Watson, Johnson, Derrick Henry and Snoop Dogg were from the AFC.
“I thought if I played like that, I would be the weak link,” Wallace said. “But I think we found out that wasn’t the case. I was kind of the opposite. So that was a good thing. It was good.”
– Rankings of the 50 best free agents
” – Key decisions to come regarding free agents” –
all 32 teams this offseason” – More about free agents
Before the game, eight players talked about their discomfort. Then they played and discovered that the “not so good” levels varied.
Johnson got into fights during his five-minute shift. He threw three touchdown passes, made an interception and threw spikes in succession, which earned him criticism from teammates and presenters Michael Strahan and Charissa Thompson.
After Wallace’s third touchdown, Johnson simply held his head. At the end of the quarter, Wallace let go of his arms, while Johnson jokingly accused him of (perhaps?) degrading his skills.
“It’s a pool shark making noise,” Johnson said of the creek. “Which he did.”
Wallace helped. Murray, the captain of the NFC, told him before the game what the defense was going to play and told him to alternate between some offenses and look for an open man.
“I’m mostly just a guy from Ask Madden,” Wallace said. “It’s like I pick a play. I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds like a good play, let’s just enjoy it and try to get something out of it.’ He picks the defense, runs the whole time and then picks a couple of options on offense.
I could hear his voice in the crowd, like, “Hey, take this.” Pick that. Very helpful. That’s why he’s the MVP.”
In one of the rare substitutions in the game, Jamal Adams put his virtual self – because why not – in Buddha Baker’s place. Virtual Adams intercepted a pass in the second half and forced an interception. Adams also made four passes in a row to T.J. Hockenson, who found himself in the lineup.
However, the game’s climax has nothing to do with what is really going on at Madden.
That’s what happened on the sidelines, where Snoop Dogg and Lynch were commenting. And when they battled it out in the fourth quarter – Lynch took a 20-point lead – it was a shot in the arm. So too, when Lynch intercepted a pass from Snoop Dogg and quickly fell to the floor.
The chair he was sitting in collapsed. “It was great comedy,” Wallace said. “Upstairs we laughed all night. It was a great moment, a great conversation, just a chance to relax and have fun.”
Wallace said he had laughed harder all evening than he had in a long time.
Wallace, a Saints fan after meeting Alvin Kamara last year and knowing he was playing for his favorite college team in Tennessee, said it was “pretty damn cool” to play and interact with the guys he used to play with and still watches games with on Sundays.
He had already met Lynch once – the only one he knew would be coming – and eventually exchanged information with Murray, who told him he would like to come watch the race. And if Madden did it again, Wallace said he would have enough fun to come back.
“If it had been structured the same way, I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Wallace said. “It was fun, it didn’t take long, it worked, and it was really cool.”