Players Plan Removal of Upshaw

Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover has proposed a plan to replace the N.F.L. union chief Gene Upshaw by next spring, when the union will most likely be engaged in critical negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Stover, in an e-mail message sent to the union’s executive board and the player representatives, and obtained by ESPN, cited a conference call with other player representatives last week, saying he was not the only one who felt the time was right for change.

“I feel that the board must begin to prepare for a change in leadership immediately,” Stover said in the e-mail message. “I believe we have the proper environment with our teammates and leadership within the board to execute the process of this selection.”

Upshaw’s contract runs through 2010. Although he has been the target of criticism by retired and disabled players, Stover’s proposal probably faces an uphill battle. Upshaw has the support of many players because of his success in negotiating the union’s most recent contract extension.

Owners agreed to give the players 60 percent of revenue two years ago, and are so unhappy with the deal that they are expected to opt out of it in November. That would trigger another round of negotiations.

And next March, when Stover proposes to have a new executive director in place, could be a critical juncture, because it would be the start of what would be the final uncapped season under the current contract. If no new deal is negotiated, the 2010 season would be played without a salary cap.

“Matt Stover’s letter does not reflect the view of the entire executive committee or the board of player representatives,” Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae, the newly elected president of the players union, said in a statement. “The board is in the process of preparing for the possibility of a work stoppage and understands the importance of having Gene, with his experience and history, lead the direction of the N.F.L.P.A.”
Upshaw did not return a phone message and e-mail messages seeking comment.

In a statement released through the Ravens, Stover expressed regret that his e-mail message had been made public.

“I’m going to respect the process of our union leadership, executive committee and players reps,” the statement said. “I choose to handle this matter privately. It was certainly not my intention for my private e-mail to a select group to become public.”