Sunday, April 20, 2008

Minnesota Vikings DE Kenechi Udeze learns leukemia is in remission

Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 04/19/2008 12:23:10 AM CDT

It started with migraines, then neck pain. Kenechi Udeze was in Idaho visiting his wife's family. People get migraines. They suffer from neck pain. He didn't think too much of it. Thought it was a sinus infection, so he went to see a doctor. It was there, in a doctor's office in Idaho, that Udeze heard one of the most jarring words imaginable.


"I was almost like in a shock," the Vikings defensive end said. "I was sitting down on the table in the doctor's office, and the doctor said, 'I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it looks like you have an acute form of leukemia.' So I sat there for a second, and I hopped up and said, 'Leukemia? I'm a guy who works out all the time. I don't smoke, consume alcohol.' "

It didn't make sense, Why would it make sense? He was young, strapping, just weeks removed from starting for the Vikings. Leukemia? That cancer that originates in bone marrow? There had to be a mistake.

"The first thing that ran through my head was, 'What does this rudy-poo doctor in Idaho know? I have to get out of here. They're scaring me half to death in here,' " Udeze said.

This was about three months ago. There were more scary moments to come. The doctor was right. Udeze did have leukemia, and it was an acute form. He returned to the Twin Cities and began chemotherapy.

On Wednesday, Udeze got another bit of news from a doctor. This doctor, who works at the University of Minnesota, told Udeze the leukemia was in remission. There were no traces of it in his blood, no traces in his bone marrow.

He ranks Wednesday as the second-greatest day of his life, right after the birth of his 4 1/2-month-old daughter, Bailey. As great days go, he even ranks it ahead of the day he got married.

"I've been waiting a little while to hear those words," Udeze said of being told he's in remission.

"I didn't even know how to take it. I kind of just sat there for a second and I was like, 'OK. All right.' "

He will continue chemotherapy treatments twice a week, hoping the leukemia stays in remission while he prepares for a bone marrow transplant. His older brother, Thomas Barnes, is what doctors call a perfect match for such a transplant, which aids in halting the return of leukemia.
Dr. Daniel Weisdorf, who has helped Udeze navigate his illness, said it's likely the transplant will be done within the next few months. During that time, the chemotherapy treatments are vital to keep the leukemia in remission.

"You really want to do it just in case something would happen where it would show its ugly face again," Udeze said.

He talked for the first time about the disease Friday, showing up at the Vikings' Winter Park headquarters to kick off a 24-hour soccer Marrowthon to raise awareness of bone marrow transplants.

Looking at Udeze, you'd never guess he was sick. He looks like he could step on the field and play. He would like to do that again. But he knows he won't be chasing quarterbacks until after the bone marrow transplant, until after he's feeling like he felt before the migraines and neck pain.

"Whatever comes at you, you have to deal with it," he said. "Of course, I'm going to play. I'm 25 years old. Not to put a premium on football, especially at this time in my life, (but) football is my passion. As soon as I can do it at a high level again, I'll be back."

Allen expected to leave, but talks still are ongoing

NFL rules limit Jared Allen to a 48-hour visit to Winter Park, but negotiations will continue with his agent.

By JUDD ZULGAD, Star Tribune
Last update: April 19, 2008 - 11:20 PM

Jared Allen is expected to leave the Twin Cities still property of the Kansas City Chiefs, but that doesn't mean the Vikings' hopes of landing the Pro Bowl defensive end are finished.

Allen spent a second full day at Winter Park on Saturday meeting with team officials, but NFL rules put a 48-hour limit on such visits. The Vikings will continue discussions with Allen's agent, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, and trade talks also are ongoing between the team and the Chiefs. Allen, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this week.

In a perfect world, from the Vikings' perspective, they would have eliminated the Buccaneers from this race by securing Allen's services during his time in the Twin Cities. Saturday night it didn't appear that would be possible, and Allen is expected to depart this morning.

The Chiefs have designated Allen as their franchise player -- that tag would earn him $8.8 million next season, the average salary of the NFL's five highest-paid defensive ends -- but Allen wants out of Kansas City and is allowed to talk with other teams. The Chiefs, though, are entitled to compensation.

Allen, who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season despite missing two games, arrived in Minnesota from San Jose on Thursday evening aboard the private plane of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Allen and agent Ken Harris spent Friday and Saturday at the team's facility with Harris handling negotiations on a contract that is sure to make the standout one of the league's highest-paid players.

Harris did not return phone calls or e-mail messages on Saturday.

The Vikings have offered Kansas City their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) in next weekend's draft as well as one of their two third-round selections. Those picks fall at No. 73 and No. 82 overall, with the first one having been acquired in a trade last year with the Denver Broncos.
Carl Peterson, who serves as Chiefs president, chief executive officer and general manager, is known in league circles as an extremely tough negotiator and could be looking for more in return

The rebuilding Chiefs, coming off a 4-12 season, would have five of the first 73 picks in the draft if they obtained the Vikings' top pick as well as their first selection in round three. The Buccaneers reportedly are willing to part with their first-round pick, but that might not be as attractive to the Chiefs because it comes three picks after the Vikings' selection.

Meanwhile, an interesting story in the Kansas City Star on Saturday spelled out a big part of the reason Allen no longer wants to play for the Chiefs.

Talking to a columnist from the paper in December, Allen expressed his frustration about not receiving a long-term contract from the franchise. There also is the issue of his strained relationship with Peterson, the result of the Chiefs executive calling Allen "a young man at risk" after Allen was convicted of drunken driving twice in 2006.

That led to Allen, now 26, being suspended for the first two games of 2007 -- he made his regular-season debut in the Chiefs' 13-10 victory over the Vikings and had two sacks, eight tackles, two pass deflection, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
Allen has said that he quit drinking.

"I made mistakes," he told the Star's Joe Posnanski. "But I paid for those mistakes. I've given everything I have for this team. I didn't hold out like [running back] Larry [Johnson did last season]. I didn't demand to renegotiate. I'm a big believer in loyalty. But the Chiefs ..."

As for the possibility of a fresh start, Allen told the paper: "I love this town [Kansas City]. The people here are great. The fans are the best. But ... I'm excited about going somewhere new. I'm looking at this as a new challenge. I mean, it would be really cool to go play somewhere else, like a new adventure."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Frerotte here Tuesday?

By SID HARTMAN, Star Tribune
Last update: April 5, 2008 - 7:43 PM

Free-agent quarterback Gus Frerotte expects to take part in Vikings offseason workouts Tuesday if everything works out.

"Yeah, I agreed with my agent, but nothing with the Vikings," Frerotte said.

However, he is optimistic that everything will work out, and the word from the Vikings is that things are pretty well set to bring Frerotte back to the team as Tarvaris Jackson's backup.

Frerotte -- a 14-year NFL veteran who played for the Vikings in 2003 and '04 -- said he realizes what his role will be as a backup, and he is looking forward to helping Jackson like he helped Daunte Culpepper.

"I've got to see what type of person he is, what kind of kid he is and all that stuff," said Frerotte, who played for the St. Louis Rams last season, starting three games. "I heard, from talking with other people, he's a really good guy. So, it will be fun. It will be interesting to do it."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Minnesota Vikings' Kenechi Udeze diagnosed with a form of leukemia

The Vikings' family reacted with surprise and support Tuesday to the news that defensive end Kenechi Udeze has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia.

Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson said he phoned Udeze in his hospital room Monday night and found him to be typically upbeat.

"He said he'll be all right," Johnson said. "It was a blow to him, but he's in good spirits."

Defensive tackle Pat Williams made the same observation, declining further comment out of respect for Udeze.

A first-round draft choice of the Vikings in 2004, Udeze played in all 16 games last season, tying for the team lead and matching his career high with five sacks. He also became a father for the first time on Nov. 28 as he and his wife, Terrica, celebrated the birth of a daughter, Bailey.

Heading into the final season of his Vikings contract, Udeze might be facing an uncertain future, but Johnson said his teammate's attitude is strong.

"He said the support has been great," Johnson said. "A couple people came by and visited him in the hospital. That helped me out. I was shocked when I found out. He said he'll be in the hospital for two months and have to get chemo."

A local oncologist, while stressing that he has no direct knowledge of Udeze's case, provided some general information about leukemia.

Dr. Joe Leach of Park Nicollet Clinic and Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park said there are dozens of different types of leukemia, which he described as cancer of the blood and specifically the bone marrow, where blood is made.

"We generally break them into two broad categories: acute or fast-growing leukemias, and chronic or slow-growing leukemias," Leach said. "Someone like Kenechi Udeze would most likely have acute leukemia just because of his age (24). Chronic leukemias by and large tend to be diseases of older people, so we don't usually see those until people get up in their 40s, 50s and really 60s and above."

Leach described acute leukemia as an "aggressive but curable" disease, requiring intensive chemotherapy treatment and a prolonged hospital stay.

"A month is the absolute minimum, and in general it's one to two months," he said. "If it's an acute leukemia, you're talking about probably four months of treatment."

In a best-case scenario, Leach said, the chemotherapy treatments would eradicate the cancer. If not, depending on the type of cancer, a bone-marrow transplant can be necessary.

As for the chances of Udeze playing football again, and how soon, Leach said although it's impossible to say without knowing the details of his case, Udeze almost certainly won't play this season.

"He'll be out for a year for sure," Leach said. "I can't imagine even someone in tip-top shape coming back sooner than that. Honestly, the coming back to football, as everybody knows, is really not the issue. The issue is whether he's going to survive this. This is a very deadly cancer. If he does - and he definitely does have some things in his favor - I can't imagine he'd be out less than a year. But I wouldn't say it's impossible that he could come back. I think if all went perfectly, he could come back - not this season, but the season after."

Two major factors in Udeze's favor are his age and the fact that he was in excellent physical condition before being stricken with cancer, having just completed his fourth NFL season.
That doesn't guarantee a quick or full recovery, but it obviously doesn't hurt.

"The younger you are, the better your prognosis," Leach said. "If all goes well and he gets in remission with treatment, then, yeah, I don't see any reason he couldn't come back. It's kind of similar to the Lance Armstrong thing. He went through extremely difficult treatment (for testicular cancer), was basically out for a year and came back as good as new. This could be potentially the same kind of thing."

Johnson said he didn't know where Udeze is staying, but KMSP Channel 9 reported that he is at Fairview Southdale Hospital after visiting the Mayo Clinic in Rochester last week.

Vikings coach Brad Childress is out of the office this week, but the team released a statement.
"With reports surfacing about Kenechi Udeze, we respect the privacy of Kenechi," Childress said in that statement. "The thoughts and prayers of the entire Minnesota Vikings organization are with Kenechi and his family."

Johnson said defensive line coach Karl Dunbar broke the news last week to Vikings players in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl, which Johnson attended as a guest of defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who said he hasn't spoken to Udeze and doesn't know any of the details of his condition.

Even with all the support and everything Udeze has going for him, he is in for the fight of his life.
"It's a devastating diagnosis," Leach said. "It is an unbelievably life-altering kind of cancer because it instantly changes your life."
The reporters can be reached at and

Vikings' prayers go out to Udeze

The defensive end has leukemia, but no one's saying which type he has or the prognosis.
By JUDD ZULGAD and CHRIS MILLER, Star Tribune staff writers
Last update: February 12, 2008 - 11:08 PM

A season-ending knee injury, like the one Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze suffered early in the 2005 season, is almost routine for an NFL player.

Leukemia is not. As word spread among Udeze's teammates that he had been diagnosed with the disease, they were shocked.

"It's way beyond football -- it's about life,'' said receiver Bobby Wade. "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."

The exact diagnosis for Udeze, 24, was unclear Tuesday.

The Viking did not specifically address his condition, but coach Brad Childress released a statement that read: "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."

Sources said Udeze was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester early last week and is now at a Twin Cities hospital receiving treatment.

Said Udeze's agent, Ethan Lock: "I'm not qualified to say anything about it."

Udeze was married last year; he and his wife, Terrica, had a daughter, Bailey, on Nov. 28.
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.

Several Vikings players were in Hawaii over the weekend for the Pro Bowl. The team had seven players in the game, and several others who attended as guests of players. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was host for a party for the players, who were told of Udeze's situation by defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.

"I was in disbelief," said defensive end Spencer Johnson, a guest of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams. "I called KU and talked to him and his spirits are really up.

"KU's been in the greatest shape. He's been taking care of his body, and for something like this to happen to him is a total shock to us. I don't understand why it happened, but God don't make mistakes -- I told KU that."

Udeze played in all 16 games during the past season, getting 53 tackles and five sacks. The team's first-round choice (20th overall) out of Southern Cal in the 2004 NFL draft has one year remaining on his contract, which will pay him $807,500 next season. Udeze was an All-America as a junior in 2003, when the Trojans won a national title, and declared early for the draft.

"Kenechi's got a big battle on his hands," USC coach Pete Carroll said in a statement. "We've been talking with him and we will continue to support him and send our good wishes and prayers his way."

In four seasons with the Vikings, Udeze played in 50 games and has 139 tackles, including 11 sacks. He missed 13 games during the 2005 season after having surgery on his left knee, and returned to start 15 games in 2006, although he did not have a sack that season.

"I can't describe what was going on with no sacks," he said before last season. "All I can say is that will never happen again."

In last season's opening game, against Atlanta, he ended the sackless streak by hauling down Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington on the game's final play. Udeze had a season-high 10 tackles in the Vikings' season finale in Denver.

Linebacker Chad Greenway was stunned when told about Udeze.

"There's a very big concern," said Greenway. "He's our brother and we wouldn't want 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.

"We just want to show him as much support as we can."

Wade found out about Udeze's condition late last week while in the Twin Cities for arthroscopic knee surgery.

"As shocking as this is for him, it definitely opens the eyes of every other player as well," Wade said. "Things can jump on you in a week's notice. ... I just want to be as positive as possible, because that's what you need. I'm just praying for him."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Reports: Vikings' Udeze has leukemia

Kenechi Udeze of the Vikings has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia, KSTP (Ch. 5) reported Monday night.

The station did not reveal the source for its story on its website. It said that Udeze's doctors are trying to determine what grade of leukemia he is dealing with and that it could take several weeks.

KMSP (Ch. 9) also reported the news, saying Udeze is at Fairview Southdale Hospital undergoing tests and that he was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester last week.

Vikings officials did not return phone calls from the Star Tribune, nor did Ethan Lock, Udeze's agent.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood that starts in the bone marrow.
Good Luck to Kenechi Udeze!!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Conference Championship Preview

Only four teams remain in the journey to Super Bowl XLII and the quest for Lombardi’s trophy. The New England Patriots host the San Diego Chargers in Sunday’s first conference championship game, while the Green Bay Packers host the New York Giants in Sunday’s nightcap. As usual, has a preview of each game along with a prediction.

San Diego Chargers (13-5) at New England Patriots (17-0)
Gillette Stadium
Sunday, 2:00 CT on CBS

The Patriots pursuit of perfection and the Chargers improbable run through the playoffs continue in Sunday’s early playoff matchup. New England staved off a tough Jacksonville team last week to reach this point while San Diego battled injuries and the unfriendly confines of the RCA Dome to upset the Colts.

This contest is a rematch of a game earlier this season, when the Patriots cruised to a 38-14 victory at home in Week 2. But, as New England coach Bill Belichick mentioned earlier this week, that game was too long ago to dwell on too much.

The key for San Diego will be their health. Three of their most important offensive players, LaDainian Tomlinson (knee), Philip Rivers (knee) and Antonio Gates (toe), are all banged up and their availability is vital. Tomlinson should be able to go, but both Rivers and Gates may be game-time decisions.

The Patriots offense will have to be especially sharp on Sunday if they are to out-play an athletic and talented defense. Randy Moss was held to just one catch for 14 yards last week against the Jaguars, but Tom Brady still went 26 of 28 in an MVP-like performance. A similar performance would be enough to put New England over the top, but it’s also important the running back Laurence Maroney remain an integral part of the game plan.

If Rivers is unable to go it will be backup Billy Volek who takes over the starting duties. Volek led the Chargers on a game-winning drive last week against the Colts. New England will try and get Moss more involved in this game to open up the running game and free up Wes Welker underneath.

Prediction: New England 27, San Diego 17

New York Giants (12-6) at Green Bay Packers (14-3)
Lambeau Field
Sunday, 5:30 CT on FOX

The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field will be very frozen when the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers take the field on Sunday evening. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the single-digits, adding even more difficulty to the Giants task of winning their third straight road playoff game.

After wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys on the road, the Giants find themselves one game away from the Super Bowl. Eli Manning has been playing better and the running tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw has been enough to put the offense over the top.

The Packers have benefited from outstanding play by quarterback Brett Favre, but the offense is also paced by former Giant Ryan Grant, who rushed for a team playoff record 201 yards and three touchdowns last week in the snow against Seattle.

Sunday’s game may come down to the defenses, and who can stop the run more effectively. Both teams boast an effective pass rush, but with the weather expected to be inclement, an efficient running game will be a premium. The Giants allowed an average 97.7 rushing yards per game in the regular season while the Packers gave up 102.9.

If the game comes down to which offense can make a play at the most opportune time, one would have to favor the Packers. Favre is having one of his best seasons and his receivers excel after the catch. But the Giants have defied the odds for two straight weeks and they will look to do the same this week at a frigid Lambeau Field.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, New York 17