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NFLPA director Gene Upshaw dead at 63

NBC Sports, via Clear Channel online, reports that Gene Upshaw, Executive Director of the NFL Players' Association, has passed away at the age of 63.  Upshaw has apparently lost a battle with pancreatic cancer, a disease which is only now becoming public knowledge.

NFL Network's Adam Schefter reported this morning on Sirius NFL Radio that neither the NFL nor the Players' Association was aware of Upshaw's battle with cancer.

The Hall of Fame offensive lineman was an 11-time All-Pro selection during his illustrious career as a guard for the Oakland Raiders.  He presided over the Players' Association for 25 years (since June of 1983) and was responsible for huge gains made for players during his time as the union boss.  He also was responsible for some strife, including a players' strike in 1987 and, most recently, a Collective Bargaining agreement that was opted out of two years early.

Upshaw had planned to stay in office until negotiations had ended on a restructured Collective Bargaining Agreement, which needs to be in place by the 2010 season.  His death leaves the leadership of the NFLPA, as well as said negotiations, in serious limbo.  Clark Gaines appears poised to assume Upshaw's role in the negotiations.

Upshaw is survived by his wife, Terri, and three sons.