CINCINNATI -- The NFL announced Saturday that Devon Still did not make the Bengals' 53-man roster and was released from the Cincinnati team in anticipation of the league's Sept. 5 deadline.
Still and his daughter Leah captured the hearts of football fans and non-fans alike as 5-year-old Leah fought a public battle with stage 4 cancer. She was given a 50-50 chance to live at age 4, but after rounds of chemotherapy and stem cell treatments, she's been in remission since March.
But Bengals Director of Business Development Bob Bedinghaus told WCPO that Still's medical insurance will now "kick in" for the next five years. So Still, and most importantly, Leah, will be covered under the NFL's health insurance for the next five years, regardless of whether or not Still is picked up as a free agent.
Still's reaction to the final roster was nothing short of classy -- shortly after the announcement on Saturday morning he posted on Instagram "I have nothing but love for the Bengals organization and the city of Cincinnati. Both helped me through one of the darkest times of my life and I am forever grateful. It's time to move forward and see what's next."
During a conference call Saturday, head coach Marvin Lewis said paring the roster was difficult, as it always is, but the organization ensured that Leah and the rest of the Still family would be taken care of more than a year ago.
"We bridged that gap last year," Lewis said, referring to health insurance coverage. "We made sure Leah was covered so that this year, for Devon and for The Bengals, we could focus on football."
In 2014, Still was cut from the Bengals' active roster prior to the start of the regular season but was signed to the practice squad. This decision, Still explained, was compassionate on part of the Bengals: He could visit his daughter, who lives in Delaware and was being treated in Philadelphia, and still receive health insurance and a steady paycheck.
However, only a few weeks later, Still returned to the active roster when a teammate was injured. Even then, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis told Still he could leave when he needed to tend to his daughter.
Leah and Devon were honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at this summer's ESPY Awards. Although Leah couldn't attend the ceremony as she recovered from rigorous stem cell treatment, she concluded her father's tearful acceptance speech by way of a video message, thanking those who supported her family while she "beat up cancer."
Last fall, the Bengals donated proceeds from No. 75 -- Still's number -- jersey sales and raising $1.3 million for cancer research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Since then, the Stills wrote a children's book called "I Am Leah Strong" to inspire other kids fighting a life-threatening disease and started the “Still Strong Foundation” to help meet the needs of families fighting pediatric cancer.
Still's eligibility for the Bengals' practice squad ran out this season, and he was the only waived player who is unable to return on the practice squad.
But the decision to cut still wasn't out of left field -- the defensive tackle's performance in the preseason was nothing exceptional, despite being in what he called "the best shape of my career." Rookies outshined Still against the Giants and the Bucs. Plus, he's had multiple elbow and back surgeries, which can be unsettling for coaches and GMs.
Still has a chance to continue his professional career via free agency, which has worked out for players with much skimpier resumés than the second-round draft pick All-American and Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
But while he waits, Still keeps things in perspective . He told ESPN that "he's been through, and survived, worse than this."