- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chicago-based agent Ian Greengross and an associate are the subjects of an investigation by the NFL Players Association that was referenced by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in an ESPN Radio interview Wednesday, according to multiple sources.
In the interview, Smith said the NFLPA is conducting an investigation into an agent and a recruiter -- commonly referred to as a "runner." Sources say that the agent is Greengross, and the recruiter is Kenny Rogers, who was working for Greengross. Smith said the recruiter -- who he did not name -- may have posed as an employee of the NFLPA in an attempt to influence players to hire the agent for representation.
Greengross and Rogers confirmed they had been contacted by union officials. The investigation has been ongoing for at least a month, and a source in the union, an NFC personnel man and multiple agents confirmed late Wednesday that Greengross and Rogers are the subjects of the NFLPA's investigation.
Initially, Greengross, who heads Game Sports and Entertainment, said, "not that I know of" when asked if he was aware of the NFLPA's investigation, adding that Rogers "doesn't work for me. I never paid him."
Later in the conversation, Greengross said that Rogers, who played college football at Mississippi State and for the Miami Dolphins during the 1987 strike, did work for him.
"I paid Kenny to work with some of my players," said Greengross, who according to his Facebook page represents Bears players Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, Israel Idonije and Lance Briggs as a Chicago attorney. "He introduced me to a lot of coaches, and [I paid him] to review film of players and scout players. I paid him a flat fee. I never paid a percentage for referring players. That's disclosed on the NFLPA form [which is required of agents, who have business ties with people who have contact with any of the agent's clients]."
In his interview on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning," the NFLPA's Smith issued a stern warning to agents running afoul of the union's rules regarding how contract advisors handle contact with players.
"It's a tremendous concern," Smith said. "We have a staff dedicated at the NFL Players Association whose job it is to not only look over the agents and what they're doing, but to respond to any instance where we feel that the rules have been violated.
"We have one serious issue under consideration right now. We're looking at facts where an agent may have had a runner who was posing as an NFLPA employee. That investigation is continuing. I can promise you that if the facts turn out the way that we think right now -- not only will we take action against the person who was falsely impersonating an NFLPA employee -- we will look to see what action we will take against the agent, and also consider whether there's any criminal violation. Then I'll make the appropriate referrals.
"I think that's an insidious problem. I think that any agent or contract advisor who does that and preys upon kids like that in college is something that we're going to deal with extremely aggressively."
In this case, the relationship between Greengross and Rogers isn't at issue. Sources said the NFLPA's investigation appears to be looking into how Rogers identified himself when he contacted draft-eligible players -- specifically whether he said he was an employee of the union or even the NFL, in what can be construed as an attempt to persuade draft-eligible players to hire Greengross as representation.
Sources said Rogers is being investigated for misrepresenting himself to several members of the 2010 draft class, including Carolina third-round receiver Brandon LaFell, Philadelphia fourth-round cornerback Trevard Lindley, and Houston sixth-round pick Trindon Holliday, in addition to NFL veterans Danieal Manning and Marcus Harrison of the Bears, and St. Louis receiver Keenan Burton.
According to sources, the NFLPA's security staff began to investigate Greengross and Rogers when it learned of an incident involving Manning, a fifth-year safety with the Bears, who skipped the start of the club's offseason program due to reluctance over signing a restricted free-agent tender of $1.176 million.
According to multiple sources, Rogers contacted Manning claiming to be an employee of the NFLPA. In a voicemail left for Manning, Rogers said he had just left a meeting with Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and had important information regarding the safety's contract.
Manning's agent, Russel Hicks, refused to comment. A source in the NFLPA corroborated the account.
Rogers denied posing as an NFLPA employee, but admitted to contacting Manning, along with LaFell, Lindley, Harrison and Burton. Rogers said that none of his interactions with the players involved attempts to persuade them to sign with Greengross.
"I let all these guys know I'm a member of the NFLPA retired players, [not the NFLPA]," Rogers said.
There is no such organization as the NFLPA retired players association, but there is an NFL retired players association. A union spokesperson confirmed Rogers belongs to that organization.
Lindley and Holliday were listed as Greengross clients in materials distributed by the NFLPA prior to the draft. Greengross, who was certified as an agent in 2003, also represents Raiders running back Darren McFadden, and used to represent Colts running back Joseph Addai. Greengross' Facebook page says the agent represents three first-round picks in the last four drafts.
Burton, Lindley and Harrison didn't return voicemails seeking comment.
Greengross says that Rogers, who runs a company called Elite Football Preparation, and holds camps in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi, "works with kids" and "helps so many kids get into school, and get scholarships." Rogers said he also mentors potential transfers like "guys who get kicked out of school."
"He does training and a bunch of stuff," Greengross said of Rogers. "Did Kenny refer me to a few guys? Absolutely. I never paid him. They [the NFLPA] asked me about that."
Rogers said Greengross pays him "two grand per month."
In a phone conversation, the agent defended Rogers.
"As far as I understand, Kenny [has told people] he used to play in the NFL, and says he's a member of the retired players association," Greengross said. "Obviously, that needs to be made a little bit clearer. But just like any other former player, he can say he's a member of the retired players association. [The NFLPA] sent him a letter saying he just needs to make that clearer."
Union sources said Greengross could face fines, suspension and possibly decertification depending on the union's findings.
Rogers called the NFLPA's investigation "crazy." Asked if he was concerned about possible ramifications, Rogers said, "Hell, yeah. Man, nobody needs his name tarnished, especially when I do what I do to try to put kids in school. I don't need nothing like that."
After defending Rogers, Greengross later distanced himself.
"If I find out he crossed the line ... if he was actually telling people that he worked for the NFLPA, I'm not gonna stand for that," the agent said. "I've been clean for 15 years.
"If this guy did something I wasn't in control of, that's gonna come down on me and I'm gonna be responsible."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com. Calvin Watkins, of ESPNDallas.com, contributed to this report.