On the football field last season, Dak Prescott looked like a machine at times. He completed 67.8 percent of his passes -- better than Tom Brady’s mark for 2016-17 -- en route to a 13-3 season that saw 11 straight wins in his rookie campaign.
But now, less than a month away from 2017 training camp, the Cowboys quarterback faces allegations that an actual machine did some of his work for him off the field.
Beckett Grading Services, a company that authenticates and values trading cards, has not verified a set of signed Prescott cards because it believes the cards were signed by a machine and not by Prescott himself, according to an ESPN report.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported Wednesday that Beckett analyzed several cards from Panini’s 2016 Prizm set and concluded the signatures were produced by autopen, a device used for bulk signatures.
Here are four of the Dak Prescott signed cards that Beckett refused to authenticate, believing they were signed by machine pic.twitter.com/ECVwdo8ODW— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 5, 2017
"They had a very machine-like feel," Steve Grad, Beckett’s principal authenticator, told ESPN. "You could see the starts and stops."
According to a post on Beckett's website, the cards in question had been recalled by Panini.
"When the first 2016 Panini Prizm Dak Prescott autographs were received by BGS, staff noticed that something was off as the cards appeared to have been signed by an autopen or some form of mechanical means," the site reads. "Beckett Authentication’s Steve Grad noticed inconsistencies as well and the problem was brought to the attention of Panini."
Lawmakers, including presidents, have used autopen to sign documents for decades. Grad told ESPN he’s never heard of an athlete using the machine.
As noted by Rovell, the possibility exists that Prescott never saw even saw the cards, as such things are often sent to marketing agents before the player signs them.
A representative for Panini told USA TODAY Sports "the company is looking into it."
Twitter users debated subtle differences in the signatures Wednesday, with Rovell noting that the pen on a machine can start in different places.
Definitely an autopen... pic.twitter.com/Dz9cLV22cZ— Shane Lally (@Lally1_STMA) July 5, 2017
Prescott joins Eli Manning as fellow NFC East quarterbacks mired in memorabilia controversy. Manning’s three-year-long battle with a memorabilia fraud lawsuit was re-kindled in April when an email was obtained apparently showing Manning asking for helmets that could pass as game-used.
Manning has denied any wrongdoing.
It’s the second fake-signature scandal for Panini, which discovered a batch of cards featuring Atlanta Falcons rookie Takkarist McKinley’s autograph were not actually signed by hand. Panini said card collectors who received those cards would receive authentic signatures.