POSTED 9:16 a.m. EDT, June 20, 2007

by Michael David Smith

The news that Mike Ditka will be in the Monday Night Football booth for the second game of ESPN's opening night doubleheader raises an interesting question: Will Ditka take the opportunity to continue his crusade against NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw?

Ditka has spent the last few months railing against Upshaw for what Ditka believes is a failure of the players' union to take care of retired players who are now in ill health as a result of injuries suffered on the field. With millions of people watching the Monday night opener (as Peter King noted this week, more people watched the second game of last year's Monday Night Football doubleheader than watched this year's NBA Finals), will Ditka take the opportunity to get his message out to a huge audience?

Similar questions were raised last year, when Bryant Gumbel bashed Upshaw on Gumbel's HBO show. Considering that Gumbel had just been hired as the play-by-play man on NFL Network, the league office was worried that he might take that opportunity to reiterate his thoughts on the NFL players' union. As it turned out, Gumbel stuck to the game on the field. (And the gas in his digestive tract.)

The most likely scenario is that both ESPN and the NFL will prevail on Ditka that the Monday Night Football booth is the wrong time and the wrong place to express his contempt for Upshaw, and Ditka, as a team player, will stick to the game on the field.

But Upshaw must be a little bit worried. His most vocal critic just got an awfully big platform.