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Gumbel calls Upshaw 'personal pet' of Tagliabue

8/24/2006 - NFL

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.