The Jets were among the NFL teams and organizations offering their condolences to the family of Gene Upshaw, 63, after the head of the NFL Players Association died Wednesday night of pancreatic cancer.
Jets chairman and CEO Robert Wood Johnson IV issued the following statement on Upshaw's passing:
"I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gene Upshaw. He was a giant in the NFL since entering the league in 1967, first as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, then as an active member of the collective bargaining process in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and finally as the Executive Director of the NFLPA. Gene continually served in the best interests of the game of football. He played a colossal role in the success the NFL enjoys today, even more than many people realize."
Head coach Eric Mangini echoed Johnson's comments at the top of his daily news conference with Jets beat reporters this morning.
"I want to offer my personal condolences and the organization's condolences to Gene Upshaw's family," Mangini said. "The word he'd done with the union was an incredible body of work. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
Jets players also offered their sympathies in their locker room before Thursday's practice.
"It's a huge loss for his family, the NFL and the NFLPA," Jets player representative Brandon Moore said. "His services to the league for five decades won't be questioned. He'll be remembered greatly by the players in the NFL."
Upshaw, who starred as a Raiders guard from 1967-82 and took over the NFLPA in 1983, was diagnosed just this past Sunday. He died while at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., the NFLPA said. His wife, Terri, and sons, Eugene Jr., Justin and Daniel, were by his side.
"I hear that pancreatic cancer is really quick," Moore said, shaking his head. "I know he used to work out a lot and he was in great shape. It just hit."
"It's a surprise that it happened," said guard Alan Faneca, who recalled last speaking with Upshaw about a year ago. "He's guided us as a players union very well for a long time. We didn't know each other personally, as friends, but I know he was a very good man."
Kellen Clemens, who found out about Upshaw's passing at about 11 a.m. while dressing for practice, said that he had only met him once, when Upshaw spoke at the NFL's 2006 rookie symposium, but he understood what he meant to the league.
"He was a guy who did a lot of great things and stood for a lot of good things," Clemens said. "He definitely leaves behind a legacy."
Fullback Tony Richardson, vice president of the NFLPA executive committee, remembered Upshaw's charm and humility.
"Most Hall of Fame players let you know they're in the Hall of Fame," said Richardson, who described an Upshaw who was jovial away from business. "If you were around Gene long enough, he wasn't the type of guy that would always talk about his accomplishments. His main focus was the union and that's what he lived for."