Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has been a leader and trendsetter on many league and players issues in the NFL. He has worked closely with Gene Upshaw over the years and echoed Thursday the many friends and co-workers who were unaware of Upshaw's condition. Upshaw died Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., of pancreatic cancer.
Here is Rooney's complete statement Thursday in reaction to Upshaw's passing:
"This is a sad day for all of professional football. We are shocked to learn of the sudden loss of Gene Upshaw. The NFL and the entire football world will miss him greatly. Gene and I developed a close friendship that remained strong through the good times and some of the NFL's most difficult challenges. We worked very closely on key issues that allowed the NFL to maintain unprecedented labor peace. His biggest asset was his understanding of the business of the game, and you always knew that his concern for the game's best interests guided his actions. Gene was a Super Bowl champion and a very deserving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Our prayers go out to Gene's wife Terri and his entire family. We will miss Gene, but his positive contributions to the NFL will have a lasting impact for many years to come."