Sources: NFLPA eyes rules changes

INDIANAPOLIS -- DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, discussed during an annual meeting at the NFL scouting combine possible changes that could affect how agents recruit college athletes, according to agents who were in the room Friday.

Smith talked about the possibility of eliminating so-called "runners" or "third parties" for agents by allowing only certified agents to have contact with players on behalf of an agency.

Smith also discussed the possibility of adjusting a rule that prohibits certified agents from having contact with prospective clients until after the players' true junior or redshirt sophomore years of college.

Some agents have said that the rule often is ignored, but allowing more contact earlier in the process could help those agents who do follow the rules and offer good advice to prospective clients.

Veteran agent Ralph Cindrich said Friday he supports both ideas.

"The 'junior rule' is idiotic and unfair to reputable agents," Cindrich said. "Athletes need advice and assistance. Agents who break the rules are going to break the rules anyway."

The NFLPA has had discussions with NCAA representatives about ways in which they might be able to help discourage some of the violations that have resulted in loss of amateur eligibility for players, as well as penalties for schools.

"Tackling the complex issue of improper agent activity in college sports requires commitment from several groups to provide effective education and enforcement," Rachel Newman Baker, the NCAA's managing director of enforcement, said in a statement. "For this reason, we appreciate the NFLPA continuing to examine how best to address inappropriate contact from third parties with student-athletes, while also holding agents and runners accountable for unscrupulous activity."

Cindrich added that "runners" need to be stopped in some way.

"If you are an agent you have to be in control of your office," Cindrich said. "If you employ runners what you really have are dirty partners."

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN.