The Vikings didn't address the exact diagnosis, but did issue a statement from coach Brad Childress saying: "With reports surfacing about Kenechi Udeze's condition we respect the privacy of Kenechi. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Minnesota Vikings organization are with Kenechi and his family."
While the team did not get into specifics, backup defensive tackle Spencer Johnson said line coach Karl Dunbar told the various Vikings at the Pro Bowl about Udeze's condition during a party thrown by owner Zygi Wilf. Johnson attended the all-star game as a guest of defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
"It was a shock to me," Johnson said. "I was in disbelief when I first heard it. It's hard to grasp. I called K.U. and talked to him and his spirits were really up. He's doing really well."
Udeze, who will turn 25 in March, was at a Twin Cities hospital last week receiving treatment. He played in all 16 games last season and had 53 tackles and five sacks. This was after he had no sacks in 2006. His 2005 season ended after three games because of a knee injury. A first-round choice (20th overall) out of Southern California in 2004, Udeze has a year remaining on his contract.
"It's way beyond football," receiver Bobby Wade said. "It's about life. With that said, there's no doubt in my mind that if anybody can overcome something like that, it would be Kenechi.
"He's a positive person. Always a stand-up guy. That's the kind of thing you need to attack and be aggressive."
Leukemia is a disease that affects blood-forming cells. It begins in the bone marrow and is characterized by an abundance of white blood cells in the body.
"There's a very big concern," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "He's our brother and we wouldn't anything like that to happen to anyone in our family. We're very shocked. This is something nobody anticipates, especially at 24 years of age."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He knows how I feel about him and that's the most important thing. I feel like he's progressed. He knows we stepped back a little bit toward the end of the year in terms of taking care of (the football). When we were on that pretty good run we were taking care of it, at times, decently. He knows what he has to eliminate. Those multiple-turnover games." — Brad Childress on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and if the coach has any concern about not making it clear that Jackson is his starter.