Upshaw’s Demeanor Shows Why Retired Vets Want Him Out

By Gregory Moore
Updated: September 18, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — “Paging Gene Upshaw, paging Gene Upshaw. You’re needed in Kevin Everett’s room stat.”

Whether NFLPA union boss Gene Upshaw likes it or not, the attitude his possesses against the media in regards to whether he will or has visited Buffalo Bills injured player Kevin Everett is the very bone of contention as to whether or not Upshaw has any compassion at all.

The brittleness, abruptness and sometimes down right rudeness or arrogance that Upshaw and even some of his PR employees show right now is the very reason why former players want him out of the very union they helped create.

Think that is an over exaggeration? Think again. In the world where perception is everything, Upshaw’s demeanor showcases exactly why many think his is a pompous ass and he is doing nothing to change that fact.

Whether Upshaw or Carl Francis, the union’s chief mouthpiece, understand the situation at hand or not is a relevant point amongst the media and former/current members of the union.

Smart public relations experts would have told Upshaw a long time ago that he needs to lose the scowl and be more amenable to the press and to many of his former colleagues who are hurting.

Compassion, as one PR expert told me, goes a long ways towards healing any wounds from previous battles but yet Upshaw has this “me against the world” attitude.

So when it comes to making it seem like he does care about a current rank and file member, instead of Upshaw makes a statement like, “When I visit Kevin it will not be a press conference,” Upshaw said Monday afternoon.

“It will not be at the urging of anyone but him or his family. I don’t know why I have to explain that to anyone.” Okay Gene, let me help you with your public relations mea culpa statement.

First of all, you owe the whole world an explanation as to why it has taken you this long in even visiting this young man. As I wrote last week about how the union needs to do right by Everett, the first step in showing everybody that the NFLPA is indeed a caring union, you step up, learn to take media pictures in even trying situations and you help spin the darn story in your favor.

C’mon man, how hard can this really be? Surely Francis and others have told you this? Your next step in trying to show that you are a caring person who has compassion and understanding of the situation at hand is that you, Francis and others need to know everything you can about the Miami Project.

I thought it was quite comical as I was reading through various op/eds Tuesday morning that Mark Kriegel’s piece actually shows how uninformed the NFLPA’s press office is on injuries. When Francis was asked about the efforts of the Miami Project, he replied, “What exactly is the Miami Project?”

Not a good answer, Mr. Francis. Not a good answer at all. In a sport where spinal injuries could happen, both you and Mr. Upshaw should be the familiar with what this project has developed and be advocating that more sports physicians attend the workshops that these doctors author on a yearly basis.

Yet Francis’ answer is very typical of how the NFLPA operates; lackadaisical and without any foresight and responsiveness to future issues that may come about as dictated by the past and present events surrounding their environment.

So why should any of us be surprised that Upshaw hasn’t visited Everett in the hospital? Because we are all hoping that he and the NFLPA’s rank and file in Washington, D.C. have learned from their past errors and want to be better stewards in the future.

Yet if the current actions of no only Upshaw but that of his spokesperson are any indication, the elitist position that they have always took will continue to be the norm.

SPINAL/HEAD INJURIES CAN BE AVERTED Everett’s injury has renewed a lot of parents’ fears about the game of football and the violent hits that are a part of the game. It wasn’t that long ago when I was coaching a Pop Warner team and one of our players made a tackle but then went down in a crumpled heap.

Parents panicked and many coaches and support staff were rushing to try and help but did not know how. It was that year that I had just so happened to have my sports trainer certification from the Red Cross and one of the biggest emphasizes that year were on spinal injuries. So when that player went down and he said he couldn’t feel his limbs, I didn’t panic; I realized exactly what was going on and directed everyone around me what they needed to do.

By following my instructions, we got that young man to the hospital where within a few hours he was sitting up, playing a video game and eating like he hadn’t had his favorite foods in over a month. How was this possible? Because I relied on my training on how to avert a serious spinal/neck injury.

Spinal, head and neck injuries are probably the scariest types of injuries any medical staff member wants to come across yet many of these injuries can be averted if the coaches, players and parents just follow some simple guidelines. Some of those guidelines are as follows: — Players should always make tackles using proper technique. That means that no one should be leading with their head gear (helmet) and they should be using their shoulders that are clad with shoulder pads.

– Play safely by making sure the would be target sees you. Often times injuries like Everett’s come from players who are out to make the big hit but who are not looking after the player who they are about to tackle but more for jarring the ball loose with that big hit. Players should always make sure that their opponent sees them and has a chance to prepare himself or herself for the hit. Even in split second plays, good form and technique won’t diminish the hit but shows good sportsmanship.

– In the case of an apparent injury, coaches should try and be calm to their team while the medical staff on the field keep the subject in a calm state as well. Hysteria breeds fear, anxiety and other neurological issues that are so not needed on the playing field.

– If the injury is a neck, head or spinal injury, only trained medical staff should be moving the subject. Coaches and/or parents need to let these individuals do their job. No one except a trained medical staff member should be moving the player because nobody else may know the ramifications of such a move; even if it is just to a stretcher.

Football players need to realize that they are not invincible and that at any given time an injury of Everett’s magnitude can surface. That is why it is so imperative that coaches and parents of younger players force them to be more fundamentally sound in their technique than trying to hot dog a play and make the spectacular hit.

As violent as this game can get, football can also be very safe if followed within the guidelines of the sport itself. Injuries like Everett’s, while not being completely eliminated by good technique, can be drastically averted if good technique is followed.

And while Everett’s technique and the play he was involved in were both sound plays, we can’t forget just how dangerous this game can truly be. Hopefully parents and the future stars of the gridiron understand that fact and govern themselves accordingly.