Jets' Richardson: Upshaw lived for union

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson is a member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee and serves on the league's player advisory committee.

The 14-year veteran shared his thoughts on the passing of NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw.

On his initital reaction to learning Upshaw had died:

Richardson: We didn't know anything [about Upshaw's pancreatic cancer]. I guess he just found out a few days ago. People are still in shock. We haven't had a chance to speak to anyone from the league yet or our union office. We're definitely going to miss Gene because he was a tremendous leader for our organization.

On Upshaw's legacy:

Richardson: Hopefully, everyone in this locker room recognizes that they're a lot better for having Gene as their leader. He did so much. Every guy in this locker room can say they benefited from his leadership. The league has benefited from his leadership. The salaries are ... it is what it is. Our game is better from his leadership. He is definitely going to be missed.

On if he thinks players sometimes were unfair in their criticism of Upshaw:

Richardson: That's part of it. Whenever you're in a leadership position sometimes there are going to be things that are said or written about you that are sometimes true and sometimes are not. That's just the nature of it. Gene was a man's man. He spoke what was on his heart and he wore it on his shoulder. From a leadership standpoint he did a tremendous job for us.

On what it was like to be around Upshaw:

Richardson: We had a lot of great meetings. There were a lot of times when we obviously had to take care of work. It was a serious approach, but behind close doors we would sit and laugh and talk. Really he is a player, and I think sometimes people forget that Gene Upshaw was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman. He was one of the guys. We had a good time and he is definitely going to be missed.

On the stories Upshaw used to tell of his playing days with the Oakland Raider:

Richardson: You really couldn't get him to talk much about his Raider days. He would shed a little bit of light on it. Most Hall of Fame players let you know they're in the Hall of Fame. If you're around Gene long enough -- obviously I remember because I remember watching him play -- but 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.