"Obviously he's somebody who changed the game for players and definitely myself, who came in 20 years after he came into the front office," Pierce said today. "If you look at what he's done, and if you really understand the game and know history and do the research of how it was before Gene Upshaw, it was pretty bad. He built on it every year. You have strikes and maybe people that have been upset with him in recent years about retired players and how they were being treated. But for us players in the game today you have to respect him and understand how much he meant to the game."
The Giants, like the rest of the NFL and the sporting public, were stunned today to learn of the death of Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association for 25 years. Upshaw died last night at his California home, just three days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer . He was 63.
"It's a sad day for the NFL," Pierce said.
"It was very, very sad," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "I actually had a couple of conversations with him, got to know him a little bit, he was a great person, and I was saddened by that. My thoughts go out to his family and his friends. It's a sad situation, but hopefully his family can recover from that."
Coach Tom Coughlin informed the players of Upshaw's passing on the field after a morning jog through. The team then observed a moment of silence.
"I think the guys that work with him closely are really shocked by this news," Coughlin said.
One of those guys is center Shaun O'Hara, who got to know Upshaw as a player representative since 2002, first for the Cleveland Browns and then with the Giants. O'Hara answered "absolutely" when asked if he was shocked by Upshaw's death. "I came in this morning at 8 a.m. and a teammate of mine mentioned he saw something on MSNBC and I thought it had to be a hoax, because it was all of a sudden," O'Hara said. "I tried to search online and find some more information and it was later revealed it was true. It was very sad to hear."
Upshaw's Passing Hits Giants
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