Still feels 'lucky' Bengals kept him around

CINCINNATI -- This summer has been a nightmare for Devon Still.

That's precisely why he will take any and every good nugget of news that comes his way; news such as his phone call Saturday with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.

At the time, Lewis was calling to inform Still that the team had no choice but to cut him. In doing that, Lewis told Still he'd be re-signed to the practice squad as long as he cleared waivers and didn't sign with another team. That's exactly what happened.

When Lewis made his practice-squad pitch to Still, he sold him on the following: That he'd still get to play with the team that drafted him. He'd continue to get a paycheck and insurance from that same team. And he wouldn't have to pick up and move even farther across the country from his cancer-stricken 4-year-old girl.

Those options, combined with last week's new practice-squad eligibility rules that made it possible for him to stick around made Still feel "lucky."

"I wanted to make the roster, but I have a lot of stuff going on right now that I can't give football 100 percent," Still said Monday, referencing the 53-man roster that was decided Saturday without him on it. "They could have just washed their hands completely of it. Said, 'We don't care what's going on in his personal life, we just want people who can care 100 percent on football.' That's, after all, what they pay us to do."

It hasn't been easy for Still to focus on football since June 2.

That day the third-year defensive tackle was informed that his young daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with stage-4 neuroblastoma, a very rare pediatric cancer. When he learned of the diagnosis, Still was granted permission by the Bengals to leave organized team activities and minicamp in June to attend to his daughter. He spent the rest of the offseason in Delaware, where he's from, and Philadelphia, where Leah was getting treatment.

When training camp began in late July, Still came back to Cincinnati with hopes of eventually getting his daughter to join him. His hope had been that she would be moving closer to him last week. Because of other issues Still wouldn't go into, Leah hasn't yet joined him in Cincinnati.

"I'm dealing with a lot more issues with my daughter than just her having cancer," he said. "With [the Bengals] sticking by me through this whole time and understanding exactly what I'm going through, it's a blessing that I was around this organization."

Still didn't want to construe things as if he isn't thinking at all about football right now.

"I have a [stake] in football or else I wouldn't be out there," Still said. "I wouldn't risk my own health if I wasn't completely into football. I can't give you exact percentage numbers, but all I can tell you is that dealing with my daughter on my mind, and whatever I have leftover for that, I put towards football."

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said he knew football was important to the lineman. To the team, however, winning remains most important.

"I told the players the first day when I got the job, the best guys are going to be here," Guenther said. "As many guys as I can keep, the best guys are going to stay. They can help us win, whether it be 10 snaps or 70 snaps."

Still may not have been viewed as the winner the Bengals needed, but Christo Bilukidi was. The third-year interior lineman edged out Still for the fourth defensive tackle position. He'll be backing up Geno Atkins and Domata Peko along with Brandon Thompson, who comes off the bench to play Atkins' spot.