BY NOW, NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw (below) should be accustomed to criticism: For years retired players have lambasted him for failing to provide adequate health benefits. But Upshaw's support among active players may be weakening. In a private e-mail sent to NFLPA members last week, Ravens kicker and team representative Matt Stover (bottom) outlined a plan to name Upshaw's successor by next March. Wrote Stover, "I am not the only Rep. who ... felt that it is time for a change."
Stover provided few details about why he and others are unhappy. The e-mail was sent after an announcement by Upshaw, whose contract runs through 2010, that he won't step down until a new labor agreement between owners and players is negotiated. (The current deal expires in 2012, but the owners may opt out this year.) Upshaw shrugged off the attack, but there are other signs of unrest. Last year Chiefs lineman Kyle Turley lashed out at Upshaw on behalf of retirees, and at the NFLPA's meetings in Hawaii earlier this year, players reportedly discussed his ouster. Upshaw got more bad news on April 9. The House Judiciary Committee released a report criticizing the NFL and the NFLPA, threatening legislation if more is not done to help retired players.
MARK COWAN/ICON SMI (STOVER)