Even as the NFL Players Association is in the preliminary stages of finding an eventual permanent successor for the late Gene Upshaw, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 27, one prominent candidate all but withdrew his name Tuesday in consideration as the new union boss.
Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations since joining the league in prior to the 2006 season, said he is content with staying on the other side of the league fence.
After being recently contacted by ESPN about his potential candidacy, Anderson released a statement:
"The fact that my name has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Gene Upshaw is a tremendous compliment. But it is also a fact that I am, respectfully, not a candidate for Gene's position. I love my job and want to continue working with commissioner [Roger] Goodell, the NFL clubs, and Gene's eventual successor to make our league even better."
While no formal search has commenced, Anderson had been contacted by union representatives to informally gauge his interest, according to sources.
Last week, the NFLPA quietly formed a sub-committee to choose a search firm that will assist a process to have Upshaw's successor in place by next March. Richard Berthelsen is the NFLPA's interim executive director and has stated that he intends to assist the union through its next critical labor negotiations with the owners.
The sub-committee consists of NFLPA president Kevin Mawae of the Tennessee Titans, Tony Richardson of the New York Jets, Mike Vrabel of the New England Patriots, Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts, Domonique Foxworth of the Atlanta Falcons and former player Donovin Darius.
Once a search firm is in place, the sub-committee will work with the firm on establishing a profile for the job, identify worthy candidates, vet the candidates, narrow the list so that formal interviews can occur at the end of the 2008 season and recommend a successor by the NFLPA's annual meetings in March.
Anderson has a comprehensive resume for a leadership position. When he was promoted in February 2007 to his current position, his areas of responsibility include player personnel, officiating, on-field player discipline, rules and regulations compliance, youth tackle football, as well as Competition Committee Liaison.
Prior to joining the NFL, Anderson, a three-year football letterman at Stanford University, spent four seasons as the executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Falcons. He worked closely with Falcons' president, Rich McKay, and was responsible for overseeing player contracts, the salary cap and legal affairs, among other responsibilities.
Anderson, 54, joined the Falcons from the coaches' division of Octagon, where he served as a Sports Agent for NFL coaches and players. He represented several current NFL head coaches.
In November of 2002, Anderson was named to the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue. A year later he was voted one of the "101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports" by Sports Illustrated.
A native of Los Angeles, Anderson was an all-league high school quarterback and shortstop. As a scholarship athlete, he played both football and baseball at Stanford, earning a Political Science degree in 1976. In 1979, he graduated from Harvard Law School.
Anderson began his professional career as an attorney at Kilpatrick & Cody in Atlanta, working primarily in labor law litigation. In 1987, he launched a sports agency, AR Sports, specializing in the representation of NFL coaches and players, which merged with Octagon in 2001.
Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN.