EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings want Kenechi Udeze to focus on his fight against leukemia and not worry about his financial situation.
The defensive end was placed on the reserve-non-football-illness list Friday, coach Brad Childress announced. That makes him ineligible to participate in the 2008 season, but the team will voluntarily pay him his $807,500 salary for the year. Udeze revealed two weeks ago that the cancer was in remission, and that his older brother has matching bone marrow for a pending transplant.
"He can focus on getting well. He's done a great job with that so far. He's been positive. He's been upbeat," said Childress, who praised owner Zygi Wilf for the decision.
Udeze signed a five-year contract as a first-round draft pick out of Southern California in 2004 and will be a free agent next March. Once the season is over, Childress said the Vikings will revisit Udeze's status.
Diagnosed in February with an acute form of the disease, which is cancer of the blood and bone marrow, Udeze was holding out hope of playing this fall. Childress said he spoke with him Thursday night.
"He's such a competitor. You hate to burst bubbles, but realistically speaking you want to take his health and well being into consideration first," the coach said.
At his first public appearance to talk about his condition and speak in support of marrow donation, Udeze said he has looked at leukemia as "nothing more than a cold."
"It's a little more than a cold, but he'll continue to keep a positive attitude," Childress said. "We just felt like it was best to be honest with him and straightforward with him."
Udeze lives year-round near the team's practice facility, so he's expected to be a frequent visitor.
"He is welcome around here. He'll be part of the team. As much as he can be around here, he's going to be around here," Childress said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press