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Gene Upshaw: Rest In Peace

Sad news that Gene Upshaw, Hall of Fame football player and Executive Director of the National Football League Player Association (NFLPA), died earlier this morning at age 63 from pancreatic cancer.

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Gene Upshaw had a stellar professional career, playing for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders from 1967 through 1981.  He was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and an 11-time All-Pro, playing on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Raiders.  Upshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Perhaps better known for leading the NFLPA the past 25 years, Upshaw was instrumental in revolutionizing the game, its framework, make-up and market.  A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) forged with the league in 1993 has been extended five times.  Most recently in March 2006, it was extended through the 2011 season after the NFL owners voted 30-2 to accept the NFLPA's final proposal.  The CBA created the era of free agency and the league salary cap.  However, feeling players are profitting too much of late, the owners decided recently to opt out of this agreement.

Some current players felt Upshaw was too chummy with the NFL, but he always acted in the interest of the game, trying to balance the needs of owners and players.  I think he'll be sorely missed.  I'll watch with interest how a succesor is found to pick up his mantle, and when and if a new CBA can be negotiated.

Rest In Peace.