Former coach, foes honor Upshaw

Posted by ESPN.com' s Bill Williamson

Here is reaction from some key figures in Gene Upshaw's NFL career who I caught up with today:

Former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Flores: "He was one of the all-time greats. He had it all. He became a leader and earned the respect of all of his teammates. True, die-hard Raiders fans remember Gene Upshaw as a dominant player."

Former Denver linebacker Tom Jackson: "It's a sad day for the NFL. Gene and John Hannah where the greatest guards I've ever faced. A lot of older players say they wish they would have played now because of the money difference. But I am honored to have played against a player like Gene Upshaw. The game was more pure then and Gene was a part of that. Gene played at 260 pounds but he was big for those days. He was big. Very rarely are the emotional leaders of a team the offensive linemen. But Gene was the emotional leader of those great Raiders' teams. He was a respected guy."

Former Denver linebacker Randy Gradishar: "Playing against Gene was always a difficult challenge. I took great pride in playing against the Raiders and I took great pride in playing against Gene Upshaw. Playing against Gene was a mind game. He could overpower you but he was very intelligent so he could outsmart opponents as well."

Former Minnesota defensive tackle Jim Marshall: "I had a lot of respect for Gene Upshaw as a player and as a person. As an older player we didn't all always agree with Gene but we knew he did his best. He did a lot of great things inside and outside of the game. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife and children. Gene was a good man."