Classy to the end, Devon Still thanked the Bengals and their fans a few hours after head coach Marvin Lewis explained to him there was no room on the defensive line.
"I'm leaving with a lot of love and respect for the Bengals and their fan base. It's a great fan base," Still said Saturday afternoon after they cut their roster to 53 players. "Everyone did so much to help me get through last season with my daughter's sickness."
Still and his five-year-old daughter Leah became national figures last season when he continued to play even though Leah was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer during spring practices. While making a commitment to shed light on pediatric cancer, Still went from the practice squad to the roster and played in 10 games while visiting his daughter in Philadelphia every off day.
They have been honored for their efforts, most famously at the ESPYs in July when they received the Jimmy V. Never Give Up Award.
That describes Still's mentality right now. Once Leah went into remission back in the spring, Still was able to devote himself to football again. He couldn't participate in the spring practices as Leah coped with the impact of chemotherapy and the absence didn't help. But he dropped 30 pounds to 295 and looked good in the last two preseason games, particularly in Thursday night's finale in Indianapolis. Some thought it's the best he's played as a Bengal.
Although the depth chart tightened here with the re-signing of veteran tackle Pat Sims and the drafting of Arizona State tackle Marcus Hardison in the fourth round, Still would seem to still have a shot in the league as a former second-round pick and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who is just 26.
"(Lewis) told me I put a lot of good things on tape and that I did all I could to get picked up by somebody else," Still said. "I'll be able to go home and see my daughter and then hopefully in a few days I'll get a call from where I can start my career again."
Leah, of course, is delighted to hear her father is coming home even though she might not understand that she'll probably soon be rooting for a new team.
"One thing I would like to say," Still said. "I've been seeing where some people are saying they don't respect the Bengals for cutting me and that they'll never go to another game. I just want to tell them that's not the route to go. They treated me tremendously and that's not the way I feel at all. They helped me get through it. My daughter's in remission. It was all about football this year."
Still says he'll miss the team and the city and his biggest memory has to be the night last season at halftime during the game against the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Leah came on the field and helped Bengals vice president Katie Blackburn present a check of more than $1 million to Cincinnati's Children's Hospital, the money from the sale of Still's No. 75 jersey.
"That's it. That's got to be the most memorable,' Still said. "It was a great night. But it's time to move on."