Gumbel calls Upshaw 'personal pet' of Tagliabue

Updated: August 24, 2006, 6:02 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The job status of Bryant Gumbel, scheduled to be the play-by-play broadcaster on the eight late-season games on the NFL's in-house network, could be the subject of a discussion by NFL officials after Gumbel's suggestion that Paul Tagliabue show his successor "where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash."

Tagliabue said Monday that incoming commissioner Roger Goodell and Steve Bornstein, who runs the NFL Network, will discuss the remarks after Goodell takes office Sept. 1.

Gumbel addressed his closing remarks on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" last Tuesday to Goodell.

"Before he cleans out his office," Gumbel said, "have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch."

Tagliabue strongly disagreed with the tenor of Gumbel's comments.

"I think things that Bryant Gumbel said about Gene Upshaw and the owners are about as uninformed as anything I've read or heard in a long, long time, and quite inexcusable because they are subjects about which you can and should be better informed," Tagliabue said.

Tagliabue was also asked if he thought Gumbel should remain with the network.

"Having looked at how other people have had buyer's remorse when they took positions, I guess they suggest to me that maybe he's having buyer's remorse and they call into question his desire to do the job and to do it in a way that we in the NFL would expect it to be done," the commissioner said.

Upshaw did not immediately return a call placed by The Associated Press.

However, a number of owners have said that they thought they had given away too much to the union in a last-minute six-year contract extension that added almost $1 billion in the league's contribution to the players.

And Upshaw told the AP several weeks ago that he was able to get more from the owners than he had agreed to just a few days before the owners finally agreed on the new deal.

Gumbel, once the host of the NBC pregame show and later co-host of "The Today Show," said when he was hired that no restrictions had been put on his ability to comment on what he sees on the field.

"It's a lot like covering any story," he said. "You see what is in front of you and you report on it."

The two-year-old NFL Network will televise eight late-season games on Thursday and Saturday nights this season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press