The following post appears on the National Football League Players' Association Web site:
"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of our leader, Gene Upshaw. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Terri, and their three sons – Eugene, Justin and Daniel. Gene learned he was sick just this past Sunday and he died with his family at his side. We ask that the media respect our need to begin the process of dealing with this unexpected tragedy and to begin the grieving process."
Several reports say the diagnosis Upshaw received Sunday was pancreatic cancer. That news hadn't spread through the NFL community by the time of his shocking death at 63.
Of course, this is primarily a human tragedy, but it also comes at a tricky time for the union. Upshaw vigorously fought back challenges to his leadership in recent months, most notably from former Eagles Pro Bowl corner Troy Vincent. The NFL owners have opted out of the collective bargaining agreement, meaning whoever takes Upshaw's place will be thrust into a huge battle with long-term repercussions.