Gene Upshaw was a force both on the field as an Oaklnad Raider and Hall of Famer and later as the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. His death yesterday shocked the football world, as Upshaw never let on he was ill and only received the grim diagnosis within the past week himself.
He will be remembered as a leader of the Players Association and a stout advocate of the guys who sacrifice their bodies each Sunday for the good of their teams and the fans. Everywhere you listen on the radio and television, you hear others praise his efforts and accomplishments as a great part of the history of the NFL.
While I will not reap any negativity on what he has accomplished in his tenure as head of the NFLPA, I am surpised that I haven't heard some mention of the item that was such a sensitive issue over the past couple of years. That issue, of course, was the insurance and pension coverage of the older veterans, the ones who played long before the salaries hit the millions of dollars. Prior to Upshaw's death, just the mere mention of his name to former Chicago Bear player and coach Mike Ditka or former Baltimore Colts safety Bruce Laird, would evoke extremely strong comments on how Upshaw abandoned the older players of his generation and before. Upshaw was a big force against providing these players with the funds and coverage they deserved, while these guys suffered, both publicly and anonymously.
Perhaps through his passing, these issues can be resolved through a new working relationship between the current and former NFL players. May Gene Upshaw rest in peace and his family receive everyone's deepest and sincere condolences.