In a week that's been full of news about domestic abuse, lawsuits, suspensions and possible firings, the NFL has been fighting battles on all fronts. Many of those fights are with the media and advocacy groups, who seem to have made it their goal to bring down House (Roger) Goodell and the league itself.
However, because of the drama coming out of Baltimore, most football fans have not been able to hear the story of Devon Still, the Cincinnati Bengals and communities effort to help a little girl fight cancer.
The story began earlier this summer with Still going to the Bengals training camp to compete for spot on the team.
However, Still's attempt to make the Bengals became a secondary concern to his 4-year-old daughter, Leah, who's been battling stage-4 pediatric cancer since June. After completing her fourth round of chemotherapy, her chances of survival are said to be 50/50.
Still admitted he couldn't give 100 percent to the job as his thoughts were often with his daughter.
But that is when the Bengals did something pretty spectacular. When Still injured his hamstring, the team could have cut him and brought in someone who could concentrate only on making the team better. Instead, Cincy placed him on their practice squad Aug. 30. The move insured that he would have the needed insurance to help pay for Leah's medical bills, which he said could reach more than $1 million.
“I try to always look at the positive of things,” Still said last week. “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. 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.’"
Earlier this week Still was signed off the practice squad and onto the Bengals 53-man roster. It will increase his practice squad salary from $100,000 to at least $405,000 per season, which is the NFL minimum.
But head coach Marvin Lewis made sure to let everyone know moving Still up to the active roster wasn't a charity case. He sees the 6-foot-5, 320 pounder out of Penn State helping his team.
"We have an open roster spot, and this is the best football move we can make to fill it,” Lewis said in a statement. “We think Devon is ready to rejoin our line rotation and be productive. It already was stated that a big reason Devon opened on the practice squad was that he couldn’t fully focus on football this preseason. He had to take care of his daughter. But Devon has told us he feels ready to contribute now, so it’s the right move at the right time. And we’ve told Devon he can still be afforded the personal time he needs to attend to his daughter’s care.”
Cincy wasn't done there. They announced they will donate all proceeds from the sales of Still's No. 75 jerseys to pediatric cancer research. The New Orleans Saints promptly bought 100 jerseys.
After the announcement, Still's black No. 75 jersey became the fastest selling jersey in a 24-hour period in the franchise’s history.
"One of the things we took into consideration before we made it public that my daughter had cancer was that my daughter's not fighting this for no reason," Still told ESPN.com. "That at least what we get out of this battle is that more people start to know about childhood cancer and more people decide to start helping with it so that families don't have to go through it by themselves."