Healthy Udeze set for Vikes' minicamp

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2009 - 11:44 PM

The defensive end has overcome a bout with leukemia and looks forward to contributing to the team.

Kenechi Udeze
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Kenechi Udeze

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Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who was stricken with leukemia over a year ago, is now healthy and he will do what coach Brad Childress wants him to do in the minicamps. The first-round draft choice from Southern California in 2004 is confident he will play football this season.

Udeze and Childress had a long conversation last week, and the future looks good for the defensive end.

"I feel really good," Udeze said. "I just recently had a physical with our team doctor. [Dr. Sheldon] Burns had me go through a stress test and everything was good, so I'm looking forward to joining the team as we get together here soon.

"That's the plan. I don't know exactly what they're going to have me doing, because they kind of want to ease me into this offseason minicamp schedule. Whatever they throw me into, I think I'll be capable of doing."

He spent the offseason taking a couple of classes at USC and worked on getting his body back in football shape.

He said this has been his busiest year since he joined the team back in 2004.

Udeze said he is sick of answering people who ask questions about his leukemia.

"If I hear that question one more time, I think I'm going to go in the back yard and run into the wall," he said. "Honestly, I wouldn't be attempting this again or if I had a negative test, if I knew my health was at risk. My health is doing just fine now. I don't know what was going on before, but all I know is that right now, as we speak, I'm in great health and doing really well."

He said he is really looking forward "to playing the game that I love and I've been playing for some time now. More or less, just trying to accomplish a lot more things outside of football. And just trying to be the most accomplished, well-rounded person that I can be.

"I'm just hoping to add whatever piece of the puzzle that I can add. Just watching last year, the pickups of [defensive end] Jared Allen, [safety] Madieu Williams and the young players that they brought in, I honestly feel that the team did a great job in addressing the needs. I think our defense should have another formidable year as one of the better defenses in the NFL."

A heathy Udeze, who played great when he last played in 2007, would make the Vikings defense that much better and deeper, and give the team some added leadership from a class young man.

Bullpen needs help

If you need any evidence that the Twins need to acquire an effective relief pitcher, the Yankees series so far tells the story.

In the first game, a 5-4 loss, the Twins led 4-2 going into the ninth inning and lost when closer Joe Nathan couldn't hold the lead.

In the second defeat, Craig Breslow, who now has a 7.11 ERA, gave up a two-run home run in the 11th to Alex Rodriguez to lose the game 6-4.

In the loss Sunday, Jesse Crain, who now has a 9.00 ERA, gave up a home run to Johnny Damon in the 10th to lose it.

The Twins hitters had opportunities in all three games, but they left 34 men on base in the series. Still, the bullpen is where help is needed.

The Twins won the very first game in their existence on April 11, 1961, at Yankee Stadium, a 6-0 victory behind a shutout from Pedro Ramos.

But the team certainly hasn't had much success in New York over the years. The Twins' all-time record in the Bronx is 109-171 (a .389 winning percentage), including their 2-2 record in the 2003 and '04 postseasons.

The Twins seem to have been particularly bad at Yankee Stadium in the month of May. Sunday's loss dropped them to 16-32 (.333) in May at Yankee Stadium, old and new, all-time. Included in that was David Wells' perfect game against them 11 years ago Sunday.

Flip tries to help MCTC

Flip Saunders, while getting ready to coach the Washington Wizards, is also doing what he can to make sure the Minneapolis Community & Technical College basketball program, where coach Jay Pivec had built one of the top records in the country, isn't eliminated. Of course, the economy is the problem.

"My first coaching job was in the junior college ranks," Saunders said. "At the time there was seven colleges that had junior college basketball, with Normandale, Inver Hills, Lakewood, North Hennepin, Anoka-Ramsey ... and they've kind of eliminated those programs.

"I heard that they're trying to eliminate Minneapolis Community College's basketball program, which was ranked first in the nation this year and came in second as far as the national tournament, because of budgets.

"We need to get the upper echelon of academia in Minnesota to try and see what we can do to salvage that program, because it's a great program. I think it would be a shame, here in a metropolitan area like Minneapolis, where we don't have a junior college program for kids that maybe can't get into four-year schools, that can help them both athletically and academically.

"They kept on eliminating them, like I said, it would be a travesty if we don't have some type of program in this area for kids to go to. It's a great way for student-athletes to not only develop their skills but also help them academically."

Jottings

The whispering at Xcel Energy Center is that Pittsburgh assistant GM Chuck Fletcher will be announced as the new Wild general manager as soon as the Penguins complete their play in the Stanley Cup playoffs and terms can be agreed upon. ... Apparently, Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey has one more year on his contract, so owner Craig Leipold will either have to keep him next season or pay him off. Ramsey would be a good addition to the new coaching staff.

Tom Penn, the assistant general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, is about the only early candidate for the Timberwolves GM job who has not withdrawn from consideration. He will get the job if he can get paid compared to other GMs. Rest assured, Fred Hoiberg will have some position in the basketball administration, and if Kevin McHale wants to coach, he will be back.

Robert Bruininks, the sports-minded University of Minnesota president, suffered a broken ankle recently while riding a horse. ... Margaret Carlson, who did one fantastic job running the school alumni office and being involved in building support for the sports programs, has resigned after 25 years at the job.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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Kenechi Udeze