Vikings Honor Udeze's 2008 Salary

The Vikings placed defensive end Kenechi Udeze on the reserve/non-football injury list, ending his hopes of playing in 2008, but they opted to pay his full salary for the season while he recovers from leukemia.

Although he will not play in the 2008 season as he continues to battle leukemia, the Vikings announced Friday at the first day of their rookie minicamp at Winter Park that they will pay Kenechi Udeze's salary for the coming season.

"He can focus on getting well," head coach Brad Childress said. "He's done a great job with that so far. He's been positive, he's been upbeat. What that does is clear his mind of any financial issues. The organization and the (Wilf ownership group) have taken care of that."

Under league rules, because Udeze was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list to open an additional spot, the Vikings were not required to pay his 2008 salary. Collective bargaining rules deem illnesses like leukemia as not being related to injuries that would be suffered as a result from playing and exempt teams from the requirement to pay the full salary of a player. That was the technical side of things, but the Vikings have opted to do the "right thing" and pay his base salary of $807,500 for next season. This is the final year of the five-year rookie contract Udeze signed in 2004.

The Vikings will re-evaluate his situation after the 2008 season.

"I want to be talking to him about how anxious he is to go to OTAs (organized team activities) here (in 2009), which is usually not the case with veterans," Childress said. "Credit to him, he's such a competitor and you hate to burst bubbles, but realistically speaking you want to take his health and well-being into consideration first."

In February, Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia while visiting relatives out of state. After further testing, he was diagnosed as having acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease is currently in remission and Udeze found a 100 percent donor match with his older brother Thomas Barnes.

For those who believe the NFL is a sport filled with greed and opportunism, Friday's announcement may have some of them re-thinking that position. The Vikings were not required to pay Udeze this season, but they will because he is a member of the family and the team isn't bailing out on him during his time of need.


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