Upshaw: Cousin, Panthers stunned by death
CHARLOTTE ó Carolina Panthers reserve tight end Chad Upshaw was on the field Thursday and the team tried to follow its normal practice routine.
It wasnít easy. As Upshaw mourned the death of his cousin, players and coaches reacted with sadness to the sudden death of players association chief Gene Upshaw.
iI think it was a shock to everybody,î Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said.
Chad Upshaw, who was one of the Panthersí final cuts as a rookie in 2007 and is a long shot to make the 53-man roster this year, practiced despite hearing the news of his second cousinís passing from pancreatic cancer a few hours before the workout began. He declined afterward to speak to reporters.
iIt will be a tough deal for a few days,î said long snapper Jason Kyle, who is the Panthersí union representative. iRight now guys are just sad at the news.î
Coaches, too. John Fox, who grew up in the San Diego area watching Upshaw play guard for the Oakland Raiders, got to know the Hall of Famer personally shortly after Fox began his NFL coaching career in Pittsburgh.
iHeís been a close friend of mine for 20 years,î Fox said. iI think he was a real servant to the league. He did great things and the league is a lot better now than before he took over. Heíll be missed.î
Upshaw, 63, died Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif. after being diagnosed with cancer only last Sunday. He leaves a wife and three sons.
Chad Upshaw is the son of Gene Upshawís cousin Willie, a former major league first baseman with Toronto and Cleveland.
Chad Upshaw has bounced around the league since going undrafted out of Buffalo in 2007. He was cut by the Panthers before the regular season began last year. He then had stints on practice squads with Carolina and Denver before he re-signed with the Panthers in April.
He was cut a week before training camp, then re-signed on Aug. 5.
If he can somehow stick on a 53-man roster, heíll make about $300,000 this season, thanks to the work of a family member.
iWhat Geneís done, what our union has done, for salaries and benefits and things of that nature, heís left his mark,î Delhomme said. iCertainly our condolences go out to his family.î