Gene Upshaw, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, called Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke yesterday to express "concern" about the status of all-pro free safety Mark Murphy, Upshaw said.
"I'm concerned about what happens to Mark Murphy and about his future," said Upshaw. "He is too young to retire. Mark wants to play football, and I think he belongs in a Redskins uniform."
Murphy, 29, missed the team's minicamp last week due to a contract dispute. Murphy, who injured his knee last season and missed nine games, would like some or all of his contract guaranteed and is looking for assurances of playing time.
He is expected to retire and attend Georgetown law school if he does not receive those concessions.
Murphy, first vice president of the NFLPA and a long-time friend of Upshaw's, refused to comment on his situation yesterday.
Upshaw, meanwhile, said Murphy did not ask him to call Cooke.
"Mark did not solicit this," Upshaw said. "I've done this all on my own. I'm concerned about some of the things I've read in the paper, where it sounds like he doesn't even exist anymore to the Redskins. If there is any way to solve this, I'd like to do it.
"Mark's family and my family are real close, but I'd do this for any player. I'm that concerned about every player. That's my job. That's what the players pay me to do."
Upshaw said Cooke told him he should speak with Coach Joe Gibbs about Murphy's future with the team. Unable to reach Gibbs yesterday, Upshaw said he would try today.
Cooke refused to comment on his conversation with Upshaw.
During the players' strike in 1982, Murphy was the Redskins' player representative and a member of the union's executive committee. After he returned from his injury last season, Murphy privately wondered if Cooke ordered the coaching staff not to play him because of his union activity.
The Redskins vigorously denied any connection.
But Upshaw said the NFLPA "always monitors the activities of player reps and those involved in union activities." According to union sources, several player representatives have been involved in long negotiations before being cut.
"There are a lot of ways to measure a guy's worth to a team," Upshaw said. "Mark Murphy is a leader. The team respects him and the community respects him. I would like to see him stay in the game."