It was hard to match the intensity on Ricky Jean Francois' face Wednesday at the Paralyzed Veterans of America headquarters.
Locked into a practice game of Madden NFL '16 for the team's third annual Pros vs. GI Joes event, hosted by Redskins Salute, Jean Francois chose to play with the Panthers, and specifically, Cam Newton, in his quest for victory, though a fourth quarter interception didn't help matters.
"Yeah I play a lot of Madden but I like doing different teams," Jean Francois said. "Lets me get a different field, and I like using all types of different playbooks."
A casual game player might not even realize the changes in a team's concepts or schemes when looking for the next play, but closer examination, or just a lot of late nights playing with different teams, can be helpful in distinguishing between team's philosophies.
"A lot of the high school kids I used to be around, I tell them, if you want to know football a little bit better on our level, or a little close to our level, every time you play Madden make sure you pay attention to what you're doing on the game because in the game we do the same thing," Jean Francois said. "You want to understand coverages, play schemes, situations, anything, just bring the game to reality, everything you do in the game you can do on the field."
Since breaking into the NFL, Jean Francois said that Madden has helped him appreciate the coverages and routes that can often become boring in daily meeting rooms. It's also, in turn, made him a batter Madden player.
Active duty members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces played with and against Washington Redskins players in a Madden NFL 16 tournament on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,at the Paralyzed Veterans' Headquarters.
"I'm a D-lineman. I didn't know what cover-2, cover-3, cover-4 and all this was," Jean Francois said. "But when I started playing Madden and then I just started paying attention to like blitzes and what's the name of the routes, why they're making an audible here and there, it started making the game a little bit easier for me. So I'm not going to Joe [Barry] meetings and not bored when I hear about coverages and routes and now [I'm] like, 'Alright I'm really into it.' And sometimes it can help me on my math skills with some routes. I know they don't have them on the game, but I can create the routes."
Jean Francois did quite a bit of that Wednesday, calling audibles at the line and advancing to the semi-finals of the makeshift tournament. That's where former Redskins running back Clinton Portis' winning streak ended, too, even though the running back had been playing the game since college.
Portis said he never played with his virtual self on Madden, mostly because he was the only one that knew how to stop himself. His favorite player to use, however, was Marshall Faulk.
"I used to play with the Rams when Marshall Faulk was on it, so I always like explosive teams so you can spread it out," Portis said. "You know everyone wasn't always spreading people out and going 5 wide receivers, but I used to dot that back in the day, spread you out, pick you apart."
What Portis is suggesting, besides the fact that he was ahead of his time, was that the video game has evolved just as much as the NFL itself, which makes playing video games not necessarily just a hobby, but a useful tool.
As for Ryan Kerrigan, the third player who attended the PVA, he was eliminated in the first round playing as the Redskins. But he did really enjoy using the team's throwback jerseys.
"Those are awesome uniforms, I love the throwbacks, so I mean anytime I'm playing with the Skins on Madden I'll use those uniforms," Kerrigan said. "You know I was thinking about using another team, maybe trying to, I was going to use somebody like the Bills with Tyrod Taylor who's a real mobile quarterback and gets you that run pass option, but had to go with the Skins."