It's possible that no NFL player has ever been so relieved to be on his team's practice squad. For Devon Still, the Cincinnati Bengals' decision means he'll be able to stay close to his daughter, who's fighting cancer — and it will help pay for the roughly $1 million her fight will require.
Still is a defensive tackle who was drafted by the Bengals in 2012. He says he would have understood if the team didn't want him now, as he's admittedly distracted from football by the struggles of his four-year-old daughter, Leah, who has stage 4 cancer. As Still told the Cincinnati Enquirer this week, "They could have just washed their hands completely of it."
Instead, the team cut him from the 53-member squad that plays on Sundays, and then signed him to its practice team. The arrangement brings several big benefits. Still will keep his health insurance; he won't have to travel for road games. And at 25, he'll be able to work toward rejoining the team.
Those are all welcome developments for Still and his family. He says his daughter, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in June, has now undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, and that she's due for surgery to remove a tumor later this month.
"Originally, when I found out, I was going to take the year off and just be there with my daughter, because doctors gave her a 50-50 chance of surviving," Still tells ESPN. "So, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with her as possible."
When he spoke to family and friends, Still realized how important it was to keep his health insurance, he says, "Because the type of treatment that she's receiving, it's going to come up to about $1 million."
His insurance would cover all of that amount, he says.
Still, who starred at Penn State in college, has started a fundraising drive to help Children's Hospitals in Pennsylvania and Cincinnati. And he says he appreciates the chance to stick with the team that brought him to the NFL.
"Because they know of my situation, the work environment is easier for me, because I'm around players that I know, that I care about, who care about me, and I'm around a coaching staff who cares about me."
"And right now, in the situation I'm in, I need to be in an environment where I know people care about my well-being, and care about my family's well-being."