The NFL Players' Association plans to hire a national search firm, the first step in the union's process to select a new executive director after Gene Upshaw died last month.
The union sent out letters to each of its 32 NFL team player representatives this week seeking approval to hire a search firm, NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said Thursday. Once approval is granted, the union's board will meet within the next few weeks to hire a firm to identify potential candidates.
Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer last month, leaving the union without an executive director while heading into a critical juncture.
The NFL has announced it will opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement. If no new deal is reached by spring, there's likely to be an uncapped year in 2010, the season before the contract is expected to expire.
The timetable for hiring a new executive director is not clear, though the union would prefer to elect a new leader by the NFLPA's annual meeting in March, if not sooner.
center Kevin Mawae is joined by five executive committee members: Colts center Jeff Saturday, Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, Jets fullback Tony Richardson, Falcons cornerback Domonique Foxworth and free agent safety Donovin Darius. Also on the committee is interim executive director Richard Berthelsen.
As part of the search process, NFL players are being asked to provide a profile of strengths and background the next executive director should have to assist the firm in determining its field of candidates. Buffalo Bills union representative Robert Royal said he favors someone who played in the NFL and has union experience.
Among the initial candidates for the job are former union presidents Troy Vincent, who completed a four-year term in March, and Trace Armstrong and agent and former player Tom Condon.
Citing his age as a factor, the 63-year-old Berthelsen has asked that he not be considered as a permanent replacement, according to a story published by The Washington Post last weekend. Berthelsen, the union's chief counsel, did maintain his commitment to provide his assistance until a new labor deal is reached, the Post reported.
Francis said that Berthelsen was not available for comment.

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