Monday, May 18, 2009

SCU Reports: The 2009 NFL Rookie Premiere With Gregg Kohn Of Upper Deck

Over the last few days, I have spent a lot of time covering the politics of the Rookie Premiere access, but now I have some info on the goings on of the event itself. Gregg Kohn, product manager of UD Football, graciously spent some time informing me of what happened, and based on our conversation, my respect for the 2009 class has gone through the roof.

First some background. Since the early part of the decade, the top NFL rookies have gathered each year in Los Angeles to run through the routes for the first time in their full gear. Also since the early part of the decade, there have been swatches from jerseys obtained at the event put into the cards we buy throughout the card season. Most people automatically assume that the jerseys they get are one of two things: game used (they are not) or the jersey in the picture (they are not). In reality, the jerseys are worn for a matter of seconds, and the jerseys in the picture are kept by people at the event. Really, as long as you know this, there wont be any surprises, so I wont talk about it much more. What you may not know, is that the event is the sole reason we have cards for the year at all, so its a big give and take with the collectors. Again, I am not going to focus on this, the NFL had their chance for that and epically failed.

Instead, I am going to focus on a few other things, mainly the players, and some great stuff that is coming down the pipeline for UD. Before I move on, I want to thank Gregg again for the wonderful help he has given to this blog. He is one of the only people I have met that appreciates the role blogs play in the hobby media.

Moving on to the event, Gregg said he had a great time with a great class. He said that it was one of the best classes they had invited to event, and there was not a primadonna in the group. He mentioned that EVERYONE was happy to be there, and more than willing to overparticipate on what was asked. He also mentioned that a lot of the players were very happy to sign their stuff, and most wanted some of the cards to take home with them. They brought quite a bit of product with them to get hard signed for the sets, and that will include 10 of 12 sets with elements of hard signed cards, and more than half at ALL on card.

Mainly, they were trying to focus on getting more for you, the collector, which includes things like player inscriptions, as well as other newer ideas that really havent had a place in the past days of the hobby. He also commented that the many of the guys, including Darrius Heyward-Bey in particular, were determined to sign their full name regardless of how they felt about signing cards. As a kid, Heyward-Bey hated give up autos and told Gregg he would be signing everything the same.

Many of you also wanted to know about throwbacks and other jerseys that players may have worn, and there were players that needed to wear them due to depleated inventory at the jersey manufacturers, or for a nice touch in general. So, for instance, Crabtree wore some Jerry Rice stuff, Tyson Jackson wore some Derrick Thomas stuff, and a few of the Giants even got to wear some Mark Bavaro stuff. Gregg said that they players actually like this a lot, and Josh Freeman even wanted to keep the awesome Warren Sapp throwback they used. Of course, that means if you see a weird letter in your card, don’t worry.

Gregg specifically remembered Jason Smith and his wonderful and addictive personality, saying that he was one of the best players to be around at the event, cracking jokes and talking shit. He also mentioned that Brandon Pettigrew of the Lions was great, and that he may have been the biggest tight end ever. People like Aaron Curry were also gigantic, but somewhat reserved as well, which was funny to hear. Gregg even agreed that Beanie Wells was surprisingly big for his stature, and would not like to take a hit from that tank at full speed.

Gregg explained that the event was done in shifts, where four or five rookies came to the station at a time, and went through the requests of the company. For Upper Deck, they tried to keep them in teams or at least with their buddies, at least to keep things easy. They wore around the expected amount of jerseys, enough to fill the 2009 products, but it was definitely not as many as you would expect.

So, all politics with the NFL aside, I am thouroughly impressed with Gregg's report. I will put that much more of a stake into this year knowing that the players have fun doing the events of the weekend, even the Touchdown Dance competition and the trampoline jumps for pictures. After we finished talking about the event, Gregg and I were in agreement that it was tough to think ahead a few years and know that a few of these guys wont be playing anymore. He said they were a great group of guys to spend a weekend with, and wished them the best in 2009.

As for UD products, it looks like it is going to be another banner year. SPA will be back and better than ever with an unprecedented 10 auto rookie patches per case. For the other boxes, you will either get a jumbo signed patch of a rookie or possibly veteran, or one of the new authentic dynasties cards that focus on the teams of each decade. Gregg didnt mention the letters, but they could still be included.

Philadelphia looks like it is going to be a huge success, as we have seen in the galleries from the weekend, and you can imagine that the cards are going to be beautiful. He specifically mentioned jumbo inserts that were hard signed, as well as the mini signatures we would come to expect as a staple of many retro products. There will also be a National Chicle insert set with autographed parallels, many of which were signed during the weekend.

When it comes to 2009 Ultimate Collection Football, Gregg said that they were going to go back to the non-relic versions of the RC Autos. He also said they are tossing around an idea similar to USA baseball where the players will be asked a question to answer along with their sig. That should be interesting, as the USA cards were immensely popular.

These products will accompany Heroes and Draft which should be on shelves very shortly, both of which look great. Heroes will have all hard signed cards, and you can thank the weekend for those.

With that I want to give ANOTHER special thanks to Gregg and to Brandon Miller for their work on this blog and the rookie premiere, their participation is always a treat for me. Both have a standing invitation to come back whenever he wants. Also, sorry to Lindsey who is the brains behind UD design work. I referred to her in a previous as a guy, she is actually quite the contrary. Thanks!


  1. Wait, so Crabtree wears a Rice jersey, and they slap it on a card as an event worn Rice throwback, and we're supposed to like that?

    Or is it called a Crabtree throwback, even though it's a Rice jersey?

    Either way, it sounds pretty crappy to me.

  2. It was done to swtich things up and make it fun for the players too. Considering that you wont ever see the full jersey, its not too big of deal, but would be a cool pic to see him wearing it.

    Besides, I doubt that the jersey producer has enough stock for three companies to get what they need for each player. I think this is a suitable alternative. Remember, these arent the normal jerseys you buy from online, these are the on field editions.

  3. Also, Gregg said they don't "slap" it on the card and call it anything more then it is, an event worn jersey. The players enjoy wearing the throwbacks so they bring some for them.

    No one said that you have to support its use, and that is why there is freedom of choice for the consumer. The cards may not say 'throwback,' but they do not mislead the fact that it is not game used.

    Plus, there actually are people that enjoy seeing the rookies pay homage to legends by wearing the old school jerseys, you dont, which is fine.

  4. I'm surprised that's your stance on this, given how worked up about other stuff I've seen you get.

    I guess if it's done right, I'd be fine with it--I'm just not going to hold my breath, given the reputation of the card companies.

    If it is represented as anything other than a "Throwback Jerry Rice Jersey worn at an event by Michael Crabtree" (ie, if they play it off as simply an "Event Worn Jerry Rice Jersey"--which I could see them doing) it might actually drive me to write a post on my blog again finally.

    I don't think having a shortage of jerseys would be a bad thing for the industry, actually.

  5. Event used anything is still crap. If I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as a Rookie "Game Used" Jersey card, when it comes to Upper Deck?

    The bottom line is that with the popularity growth and subsequent decline of memorabilia and relic cards to the point that manufacturers feel that most every product HAS to have them as just another insert, companies were experience ever increasing costs so instead of doing autos only in the first releases and acquiring actual game used jerseys after the season starts, they decide to pull this shit. Fine but then why are products that use event used material, priced the SAME as a product with actual game used content. It's a gyp period.

  6. "that manufacturers feel that most every product HAS to have them as just another insert"

    I think its a combination of the Manufacturers and the consumers together - equally responsible. Once you go somewhere, its tough to go back because people will no longer buy without it.

    However, the price point thing is interesting, though I would assume that the cost to put on the rookie premiere completely outweighs the cost to obtain actual game jerseys. Considering that there are three companies going after rookie jerseys, its almost impossible to obtain one, let alone enough for a product.

    Lets face it, the industry has passed the point of no return for the memorabilia card, and we will have to accept it. That just means that you should avoid the products you dislike as I mentioned above.

  7. I personally don't mind the event used if done right. Would I rather it be game-used? Absolutely! But at one point Gregg did a good job explaining why that is impossible in their rookie year a while back.

    On the other hand, I am NOT a big fan of throwbacks if they are used in bigger products like SPA. They work in products like Heritage and such, but to have an Exquisite Rookie Auto Patch with a letter from a rogue jersey sucks. At least tell me what throwback it's on.

    This bitterness though is rooted in the fact that 90% of the 06 DeAngelo Williams SPA Patch Autos are a weird red, white and blue throwback. Tell me, what team is an 06 Panther throwing back to

  8. Deangelo wore an Emmitt Smith Probowl Throwback per Gregg, hence the off colors.

  9. Sound like at least an upbeat attemt to us as collectors any step in a good direction for us right now is a good thing no? memerabilia is not going away and if it's done right with the collector in mind I say keep it coming. Of course As collectors I think we just have a need to want better because we ARE the most dedicated group, We have a passion for this hobby and lastley, pay for the companies to exist. Just my 2 cents. Grant old school pack buster

  10. Gellman, thanks for the heads up. Still don't like it, but it does give reference. I hold my prior position that it still doesn't belong in SPA or Exquisite. Save them for the lower end.

  11. Santonio Holmes wore a Swann throwback in 06. This is not new.