Panthers' Chad Upshaw mourns death of his cousin

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers reserve tight end Chad Upshaw was on the field Thursday and the team tried to follow its normal practice routine.

It wasn't easy. As Upshaw mourned the death of his cousin, players and coaches reacted with sadness to the death of players association chief Gene Upshaw.

"I think it was a shock to everybody," quarterback Jake Delhomme said.

Chad Upshaw, who was one of the Panthers' final cuts as a rookie in 2007 and is a long shot to make the 53-man roster this year, practiced despite hearing the news of his second cousin's passing from pancreatic cancer a few hours before the workout began. He declined afterward to speak to reporters.

"It will be a tough deal for a few days," said long snapper Jason Kyle, who is the Panthers' union representative. "Right now guys are just sad at the news."

Coaches, too. John Fox, who grew up in the San Diego area watching Upshaw play guard for the Raiders, got to know the Hall of Famer shortly after Fox began his NFL coaching career in Pittsburgh. Fox was the defensive coordinators for the Raiders from 1994-95.

"He's been a close friend of mine for 20 years," Fox said. "I think he was a real servant to the league. He did great things and the league is a lot better now than before he took over. He'll be missed."

Upshaw, 63, died Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif. after being diagnosed with cancer on Sunday. He leaves a wife and three sons.

Chad Upshaw is the son of Gene Upshaw's cousin Willie, a former major league first baseman with Toronto and Cleveland.

Chad Upshaw, 24, has bounced around the league since going undrafted out of Buffalo in 2007. He was cut by the Panthers before the regular season last year. He then had stints on practice squads with Carolina and Denver before he re-signed with the Panthers in April.

He was cut a week before training camp, then re-signed on Aug. 5.

If he can somehow stick on a 53-man roster, he'll make about $300,000 this season, because of the work of a family member.

"What Gene's done, what our union has done, for salaries and benefits and things of that nature, he's left his mark," Delhomme said. "Certainly our condolences go out to his family."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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