Defensive tackle Devon Still says he and the Bengals are showing each other loyalty.
Updated: 9-2-14, 7:25 a.m.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says his two most experienced players on the practice squad, defensive tackle Devon Still and center Trevor Robinson, "undoubtedly,' are going to be on the Bengals 53-man roster at some point this season.
Still understands why he's not there now as he continues to cope with his four-year-old daughter's Stage 4 cancer. Complicating matters is she is still getting treated in Philadelphia and Still has been hoping since the end of July that she'd be transferred to Cincinnati's Children's Hospital.
"I can't give football 100 percent right now," Still said before Monday's practice. "In the business aspect they want guys solely focused on football. And that's understandable. We're here to win this city a Super Bowl and right now I'm just not in position where I can give football 100 percent."
After he was cut on Saturday, Still was approached by a team on the West Coast to be on its practice squad, but the distance from his daughter is too great and he wants to show the same kind of loyalty to the Bengals. This Friday Lewis is allowing Still to leave to visit her and he'll return with the team after Sunday's game in Baltimore.
Still continues to have medical insurance coverage, a stroke of great timing because two-year players weren't allowed on the practice squad until this year.
Complicating matters are the injuries. An elbow and back problem took him out of six games last season. A hamstring injury bit him after a handful of snaps in Arizona last week, so he basically missed the last two preseason games.
But he's here and he's appreciative.
"I try to always look at the positive of things. Of course if I came back out here 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. "I have many conversations with them and they have seen I can't do it right now. 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, 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 my physical with my injury and mentally prepared 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."
Still figures that loyalty is a two-way street.
"I feel real lucky," he said. "It's a lot of pressure to try to focus on football and handle what I have to do off the field because my daughter has cancer and I'm dealing with a lot more issues with my daughter than just her having cancer. Just them sticking by me through this whole time they understand exactly what I am going through it is a blessing I am on this organization."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Rookie wide receiver James Wright, eight days removed from his concussion in Arizona, had on his No. 86 jersey but not his helmet as his team celebrated Labor Day getting ready for the Ravens in a pad-less practice Monday.
Linebacker Sean Porter (hamstring) was also out after his injury in Thursday's pre-season finale. Wide receiver Marvin Jones (foot) and running back Rex Burkhead (knee) appear to still be looking at an Oct. 5 return in New England.
There'll be a more definitive word on right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) when Lewis has to release an injury report Wednesday. On Monday Smith did what he's done the last few weeks, which is wear a helmet in individual and team drills. But he has yet to play in a game this year...
Rookie center Russell Bodine began his week in the limelight Monday, six days before he makes his NFL debut against Ravens center Haloti Ngata.
"It's all about me," Bodine said. "I've always taken the philosophy it's not who you're playing against, it's about what you do. You handle your business, you handle your technique, you'll be fine.
"He's a big strong guy. He's kind of crafty. He's good at reacting to blocks and countering off stuff...I have to go out there and handle my technique and my responsibilities and my calls. If you do that, it will be what it will be and hopefully we'll come out on the right end of it." ...
PORTER GETS IT: Porter admits he's angry, frustrated and everything else after injuring his hamstring early in last Thursday's pre-season finale. Since being taken in the fourth round in 2012 out of Texas A&M, he has suffered three injuries that have limited him to three preseason games in his career. Yet, they kept him on the 53-man roster.
"I'm frustrated, I'm angry. It's s a tough situation. You have to keep your head up," Porter said. "It's a decision not for the faint of heart. Football isn't for everybody. People get hurt. If I was the type of person that gave up after getting injured a few times I probably wouldn't even be here in the first place."
Here's a guy who never came off the field at A&M, where he played 52 games with 41 starts. One game he figures he played 105 snaps. He estimates when Von Miller left his junior year he had 10 sacks filling in at his rush linebacker spot before going back inside as a senior and starting every game for a team that beat Alabama.
"You can't be around top-notch athletes 24 hours a day and not contribute," he said. "The biggest deal in an NFL locker room is to be able to contribute and to help the team win."
Porter is still in this locker room not only because he's got the college resume, but because he has flashed in practice and in the three games he's been in, and he knows what he's supposed to do. They'll have to find out the rest in real games and he indicated the injury won't keep him out very long.
TOUGH WIN: One of the reasons T.J. Johnson went from the practice squad as a rookie last year to the roster this year is that the South Carolina center felt more comfortable in the offense after having a year under his belt. He also played more guard than the year before, a spot he played as a freshman in college before they switched him.
"You can kind of relax more at guard. You don't have to call out everything and think about your snap. Guard is a little more physical and little less thinking. I feel comfortable at both," Johnson said. "I feel like I was able to see things a lot faster. Having that second year in the same offense helped out a lot."
Another reason he's here is that he sucked it up and played last Thursday night four days after getting carted off the field in Arizona. It wasn't as bad as it initially looked, but it wasn't a bruise, either. Johnson said when his leg got rolled up he had a bit of a sprained ankle and knee, but it kept feeling better.
"It wasn't really that bad. They took me off the field that way for safety precautions, but when I woke up the next day it wasn't that bad," Johnson said. "It couldn't hurt if I played (Thursday). I definitely wanted to be out there to showcase what I could do one last time.
"He's kind of a nut-and-bolt guy. He keeps his head down, just goes about his task," Lewis said. "Last year I thought he did a great job on the practice squad and working hard every day. He showed promise and potential. He picked up basically where he left off throughout the spring and onto training camp. Again, it's an opportunity to play in these preseason games that gives you an opportunity to prove you belong to stay, and I think he took full advantage of the opportunity."