Udeze Keeps Upbeat In Trying Times

Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze was keeping his career and future in perspective as he prepared for his bone marrow transplant.

Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February, was set to undergo a bone marrow transplant early this month.

Udeze's brother, Thomas Barnes, proved to be a 100 percent match and doctors are optimistic about Udeze's chances of making a recovery. His cancer was declared to be in remission in April.

Udeze is confident he will be playing football again for the Vikings in 2009. The team placed him on the reserve/non-football injury (NFI) list this spring, meaning they were not obligated to pay him for this season.

The team, however, said it would pay Udeze his base salary of $807,500 for 2008 so he could concentrate on his recovery.

This was to have been the final season of the five-year contract Udeze signed with the Vikings in 2004 after the team made him its first-round pick. But under the rules of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, "a player on NFI who is in the final year of his contract will have his contract tolled."

That means Udeze's contract won't run during the 2008 season and thus now will go through 2009.

"Isn't that crazy?" Udeze said. "It will be good because you can work up your resume again, show everybody that you're healthy again."

Udeze also is thankful to the Vikings for guaranteeing his money for this year.

"I'd say anybody dealing with this, especially in my position being a professional athlete, they want to know where they stand," he said. "I feel like I've been playing at a reasonable level but I never felt like I've tipped the scales of what I can do. Nobody knows which way the organization is going to pull you or want you in the future or if they've just kind of had enough with you.

"I just told myself with everyday that I go out there, everybody sees that I do the best I can. When I found out the news (of the Vikings guaranteeing his salary) I was kind of taken back by it."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Vikings will report to Mankato, Minn., on July 23 and open practices on July 25. The Vikings will practice against the Kansas City Chiefs on July 31 in River Falls, Wis., and also hold night practices on July 26 and Aug. 2 in Mankato.

NOTES

  • The Vikings have yet to sign any of their five draft picks but it shouldn't be a problem for the team to reach deals.

    The Vikings sent their first-round pick to Kansas City in the Jared Allen deal. Their top choice was safety Tyrell Johnson, who was taken in the second round.

    The other choices are fifth-round quarterback John David Booty; fifth-round defensive tackle Letroy Guion; sixth-round center John Sullivan; and sixth-round wide receiver Jaymar Johnson.

  • DE Jared Allen, who was twice arrested for drunken driving while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and was suspended for the first two games of last season, was invited to the NFL rookie symposium in order to talk about his off-the-field issues. Allen has said on numerous occasions that he has given up drinking alcohol.

  • Vikings rookies recently spent a day touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, as part of a league initiative to help its young players gain an appreciation for the history of the game.

  • OLT Bryant McKinnie's status with the NFL remains uncertain. He could face disciplinary action, including a suspension, because he's a repeat offender of the league's personal-conduct policy. McKinnie faces four charges, including one felony, stemming from a brawl outside a Miami nightclub in February. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges; his next court date is scheduled for Sept. 24.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know I'll be back playing football. It's not even about like how I feel, it's about my mindset and my mindset is, ‘This is temporary.' For me to sit up and say, ‘This is going to be the end.' No. I told myself when I'm done with football the world will know and this is not my exit out of football." — Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze on the fact he fully expects to return to playing football in 2009 after taking this season to recover from an acute form of leukemia.

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