Making practice squad keeps insurance for player's daughter
CINCINNATI -- Defensive tackle Devon Still understood why the Cincinnati Bengals couldn't keep him on the roster.
With his injured hamstring and his daughter fighting cancer, the second-round pick had a lot on his mind during training camp.
He hasn't been at his best. The Bengals have kept him around anyway, and he's grateful.
Still was waived as part of the final roster reduction a week ago. The Bengals signed him to the practice squad, which allows him to keep his medical insurance and get paid even though he won't get to play in games.
"They could have just washed their hands completely of it: 'We don't care what's going on in his personal life, we just want people who can care 100 percent on football,"' Still said. "That's what they pay us to do.
"But they thought about my personal issues and allowed me to come back on the practice squad so I still have insurance. They said if I keep working on (healing) my injury and mentally prepare myself to focus on football, then they can move me back up to the roster so I am not all the way out of the loop."
His 4-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with cancer in June. Still missed offseason practice time to be with her. She was on his mind during training camp, making it difficult to focus on football.
Then Still suffered a hamstring injury during the third preseason game, leaving him unable to play in the final game.
"I know a lot of their concern was about my injuries and where I am at mentally with everything that's going on," Still said. "I can't really give 100 percent to helping this football team win.
"So when they explained that to me, I told them I understood where they were coming from. Being on the practice squad does allow me to still maintain my insurance, which was my biggest reason for coming back to football, and also allows me to focus more on my daughter."
His daughter is on her fourth round of chemotherapy. Being on the practice squad also will give him more time to spend with her since he won't be playing in games.
Still benefited from the NFL's changes in practice squad qualifications in August. The league expanded the squad from eight to 10 players for each team. Also, each team is allowed to sign up to two players who have earned no more than two seasons toward free agency.
If the rule hadn't changed, Still wouldn't be in Cincinnati. The Bengals also kept center Trevor Robinson.
"We have two good, quality guys who at some point will be on the 53-man roster, almost undoubtedly," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We're fortunate enough to have them here right now as reserves for us, and (it's) an opportunity for them to continue to move forward."
Still played four years at Penn State and was a second-round pick in 2012. He played in eight games as a rookie and missed six games last season because of an elbow injury and a back injury. The Bengals are hoping that he can get healthy and work his way into their line rotation.
Still could have signed with another team's practice squad, but took the Bengals up on their offer.
"I'm not about to up and leave them," Still said. "Loyalty is something I really need right now because I never know what direction this is going to go with my daughter."
Notes: The Bengals promoted CB Onterio McCalebb from the practice squad to the active roster. McCalebb was signed as a college free agent last year and spent the season on the practice squad. ... DT Christo Bilukidi was waived. He appeared in three games last season.