Kelly Out, Still Grieving

After trying to make an immediate comeback following the tragic death of his wife, OT Lewis Kelly has been granted some time off by the Vikings and a rare release by the NFL.

Many of us at VU marveled Monday that offensive tackle Lewis Kelly was back at practice just three days after burying his wife Rakiva and unborn child -- even granting interview requests.

As it turned out, it was too soon. Coach Mike Tice announced Wednesday that Kelly has been granted a leave of absence and, perhaps more surprising, so has the NFL.

It is very rare for the NFL to allow roster exemptions for players, but the Vikings were granted a two-week exemption for Kelly. At approximately 3 a.m. Wednesday, Kelly phoned Tice and told him he couldn't go on with life as usual under the circumstances, saying his attempt to return to the team was premature.

Although he made it through Monday's practice, Kelly's grief could not be contained and Tice freely granted his request for a leave of absence.

Tice said the team's concern for Kelly goes beyond the playing field and that he needs this time to go through the grieving process before he returns to the team.

In what some viewed as a surprising move, the NFL granted the Vikings a two-week roster exemption -- meaning the team could pick another player without putting Kelly on a reserve list. However, his absence leaves the team with just three offensive tackles.

Everett Lindsay will start in place of Kelly Sunday against the Bears.

THURSDAY NOTES
* To replace Kelly, the Vikings signed G/C Mike Malano.
* As expected, Matt Cercone cleared waivers and was returned to the 53-man roster. To make way for his return, the Vikings officially released kicker Tim Seder. Under NFL rules, the Vikings had to keep Seder 48 hours before he could be released.
* The Bryant McKinnie saga -- now in his 41st day as a holdout -- took a strange turn Wednesday. While Ryan Sims -- the defensive tackle taken by Kansas City with the sixth pick in the draft -- was signed earlier this week, the Chiefs refused to officially sign his contract until Sims agreed not to seek damages from the team for accused collusion between the Chiefs and Vikings. While both teams insist that there was no collusion, it would appear that the Chiefs decision could be another stumbling block in getting McKinnie signed.
* The Vikings named their captains for the 2002 season Wednesday. On offense, it will be Daunte Culpepper and Matt Birk, on defense it will be Chris Hovan and Corey Chavous, and Chris Walsh will represent the special teams.
* The Vikings released their injury report Wednesday. KR Nick Davis (hamstring), WR Cedric James (hand), FB Harold Morrow (hamstring) and LB Raonall Smith (shoulder) were all listed as questionable. Guard Corbin Lacina was listed as probable with an ankle injury.
* On the Bears injury list, the only player of note was guard Chris Villarrial, who was listed as questionable. But, VU has been told by a Bears team source that Villarrial practiced with the starting unit Wednesday and is expected to start barring any setbacks.

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