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Devon Still: 'Nothing but respect' for Bengals despite not making final cut

CINCINNATI -- Devon Still was released by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, marking the second time in as many seasons that he didn't withstand the team's final wave of preseason roster cuts.

It means the defensive tackle is now a free agent, eligible to sign with any of the other 31 NFL teams.

After a three-year run that included him being part of one of sports' best recent feel-good stories, Still's time with the Bengals has ended.

"He really did a good job this preseason and it's an unfortunate part of professional sports that not everyone can stay there and be there in the end," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on a conference call.

During a phone call with ESPN later Saturday, Still said he understood perfectly why the Bengals cut him.

"They made the best decision that they felt would bring that city a Super Bowl," he said while waiting to board a flight to Philadelphia. "I have nothing but respect for the organization."

In a picture Still posted to Instagram earlier in the day, he wrote that he had "nothing but love for the Bengals organization and the city of Cincinnati."

At the start of last season, he was out of the Bengals' locker room for only one day following his cut. Cincinnati ultimately held on to him, placing him on its practice squad before promoting him back onto the 53-man roster entering Week 2 of the regular season. A late-preseason hamstring injury and the mental toll of dealing with his then-4-year-old daughter's cancer diagnosis had him unprepared to begin the regular season on the active roster.

Still's daughter, Leah, went on to receive international acclaim for a cancer battle the family made public last fall. Still said he wanted to be a voice for families who have children with pediatric cancers. That included raising money and awareness to further research efforts into the various diseases, and also looking after his daughter as best he could. In March, she went into remission and remains that way.

The collective bargaining agreement provides for five years of health insurance when a player leaves the league.

"Both [the Bengals and people in Cincinnati] helped me through one of the darkest times of my life," Still's Instagram post continued, "and I am forever grateful. It's time to move forward and see what's next. #IKnowThereIsAPlanForMe."

Added Lewis in the conference call: "For both Devon and the Bengals, we want to this year just focus on football and make sure everything was right for our football team."

Still told ESPN that some of his immediate interactions with fans on social media included many who said they were done with the organization because of Saturday's move.

"People are saying they're not going to be going to games or they lost respect for the organization," Still said. "I just want to clear everything up with everybody. The Bengals did everything that they could do to help me with my daughter."

In this round of roster cuts, numbers got the best of Still. The Bengals entered training camp with 10 players competing for five defensive tackle spots. After losing 27 pounds while training away from Cincinnati in the offseason, Still actually performed well during the preseason. Coaches were impressed with how trim he was when he arrived to camp, and were pleased with how he practiced and played.

Appearing in all four preseason games, Still had four tackles. He also had a sack negated in Thursday's preseason finale at Indianapolis because Bengals linebacker Chris Carter was flagged for lining up offside.

After the game, Still said he thought he had a good preseason.

"I went out there and played," Still said. "Hopefully the coaches like what I've done and I make the ballclub. If not, hopefully I've got a chance to make it somewhere else."

In June, defensive line coach Jay Hayes gave an indication of how challenging the Bengals' decision on Still would be.

"The whole thing of who is the best guy is about who is the best guy. This is the NFL. That's what this is about," Hayes said. "It's not about who had the hardest road. That's not how this is built. We are just trying to put the best guys out there."

In November, the Bengals raised more than $1.2 million for pediatric cancer research efforts in a fundraiser tied to the sale of Still's jersey. During an acceptance speech for the ESPYS Perseverance Award in July, Still credited the Bengals with being exemplary employers for allowing him time to be with his daughter.