NFLPA continues to narrow search for new executive director

Four former NFL Players Association presidents as well as Fred Nance, a sports law attorney who represents NBA star LeBron James, are among the list of candidates being considered to replace the late Gene Upshaw as the union's executive director, a person with knowledge of the search process told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Nance is a Cleveland-based lawyer who was one of five finalists for the NFL commissioner's job two years ago, and also played a role in brokering the return of the Browns to Cleveland in 1999. Phone and e-mail messages left with Nance were not immediately returned.

Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong -- two of the union's most recent former presidents -- made the latest cut after the NFLPA narrowed the list of candidates to about 14 from 25 last week. Two other former union presidents also made the list: Mike Kenn, a former Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman who served as Fulton County Commission Chairman in Georgia earlier this decade; and George Martin, the former New York Giants defensive end who recently completed a cross-country walk to raise $2 million for sick 9/11 rescue workers.

Also making the cut is sports attorney David Cornwell, who most recently represented a group of NFL players appealing suspensions for taking a diuretic that is a masking agent for steroids. Cornwell did not immediately return a phone message, while both Vincent and Armstrong declined comment when reached by the AP.

A portion of the list was provided by a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is not authorized to release such information. The list also includes candidates who have no previous ties to the union or the NFL, as the NFLPA seeks to replace Upshaw, who died in August.

NFLPA regional director Jason Belser, a former player with Indianapolis and Kansas City, was among the initial candidates for the job but did not make the cut, the person said.

NFLPA president and Titans center Kevin Mawae and members of the union's search committee have declined to identify the candidates.

The remaining candidates are scheduled to meet individually with the Chicago-based search firm, Reilly Partners, through the end of the year before a list of finalists is determined. The new executive director is scheduled to be selected at the NFLPA's annual meeting in Hawaii in March.

Nance played a key role in winning back James' eligibility after the NBA superstar was suspended by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for accepting gifts. He was the city's top negotiator for development at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and first became involved with the NFL in 1995 when former Browns owner Art Modell relocated the team to Baltimore.

Nance worked with former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his eventual successor, Roger Goodell, to ensure football would one day return to Cleveland.

Armstrong, currently working as a sports agent for Creative Artists Agency, is a former defensive end who spent 15 seasons in the NFL split between Chicago, Miami and Oakland. He also served as the union's president for eight years before being succeeded by Vincent in 2004.

Like Armstrong, Vincent was also an obvious choice to make latest cut. The NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2002, Vincent was a five-time Pro Bowl selection over a 16-year career split between Miami, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Washington.

During his four-year term as union president, which concluded in March, Vincent was considered by several league owners and union members as a potential successor to Upshaw. Vincent is currently overseeing numerous business ventures.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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