CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -NFL union head Gene Upshaw has never been one to hide his emotions. An ex-NFL player thinks this time he's gone too far.
Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure said he takes literally remarks Upshaw made that he'd like to ``break his ... damn neck''
``He is the head of a union. He has the wherewithal to do it,'' DeLamielleure said Tuesday.
Upshaw made the comments last week to the Philadelphia Daily News. DeLamielleure, a former guard who was part of Buffalo's ``Electric Company'' offensive line in the 1970s, believes Upshaw has ignored the needs of former players.
``Our pensions stink,'' the 56-year-old DeLamielleure said.
He and fellow Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Lem Barney held a pre-Super Bowl news conference in February to air those concerns.
Upshaw notes pension payouts have increased and a plan has been enacted to help former players with dementia. He told the Philadelphia newspaper last week he was tired of DeLamielleure's criticism.
``A guy like DeLamielleure says the things he said about me; you think I'm going to invite him to dinner? No. I'm going to break his ... damn neck,'' he said.
DeLamielleure, a father of six who lives in Charlotte, said the comments frightened his family.
``He can't patch it up - ever,'' DeLamielleure said. ``I had to explain what it means that someone wants to break grandpa's neck.''
Many believe Upshaw's comments were out of bounds.
``I know people get upset, people get mad,'' said Panthers safety Mike Minter, who has worked closely with the union and is a strong supporter of Upshaw. ``But what you represent, you've got to control your emotions. You can't let that get outside like that.''
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in Charlotte Tuesday for a luncheon honoring Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, wouldn't comment directly about Upshaw's remarks, but did come to his defense on retired players.
``Retired players are important to us. They helped us build the game,'' Goodell said. ``I don't think anybody I know has done more for retired players, or players in general, than Gene Upshaw.
``I think it's unfortunate this kind of thing is going on. I think that's the reason Gene and I have talked about forming this alliance where we can address these issues in a responsible fashion. I don't think it's helpful, but I understand it's an emotional issue.''
Upshaw, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has stressed he works for current players, not retirees. DeLamielleure believes Upshaw intentionally keeps current players uninformed about the plight of ex-players.
``He keeps them in the dark and he keeps his job,'' DeLamielleure said.
Minter, an 11-year veteran who spent three years on the union board, contends Upshaw doesn't get credit for increasing salaries and benefits.
``He's done an excellent job,'' Minter said. ``You've got a lot of older guys who are hurting and it seems like we're not taking care of them. But where we started, when the man took the job, to where we are today, it's unbelievable. For anybody to say that this guy is not doing a great job, doesn't know.''
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