The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Mark Craig with a touching testimonial to NFLPA head Gene Upshaw from one of his rank & file constituents.

Vikings center Matt Birk isn’t a big fan of the players union in general and of Gene Upshaw, its executive director, in particular.

“Don’t put this in the paper … no, wait, go ahead and put it in,” Birk said. “Gene Upshaw is a piece of” well, you know.

Birk spoke as the union and the NFL were about to go Tony Soprano on the goose that lays the kind of golden eggs other sports can only dream about.

Fortunately, both sides blinked. Seven hours before what would have been the beginning of the end of the NFL’s salary cap, it was mutually agreed that three more days are required for someone — anyone! — to come to his senses and extend the collective bargaining agreement. So free agency will start on Monday, not today.

“It’s a joke, it really is,” Birk said. “Everyone is making money. A lot of money. You think anyone wants to hear about the money problems of the NFL owners or players? It’s bad pub for the league. It’s bad for all of us.”

Birk was the Vikings’ union rep until he couldn’t stomach Upshaw’s “propaganda and poor leadership” any longer. He has fought Upshaw on other fronts over the years, speaking out against the inordinate distribution of money to unproven rookies and Upshaw’s refusal to fight for guaranteed contracts that players in other sports enjoy.

“Someone asked him about me when I was going through my deal last summer trying to get my contract guaranteed,” Birk said. “He said he played with a lot of great centers in his time and none of them made $4 million. That’s our union rep? C’mon.”